International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's. The first National Women's Day was observed across the United States on February 28, 1909. However, the tragic 1911 Triangle Factory Fire that took the lives of more than 140 working women became a catalyst for subsequent Women's Days (which was already growing as an internationally celebrated event).
Only days before the Triangle Fire, more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies in Europe campaigning for women's rights to work, vote and hold public office, as well as ending discrimination.
On this International Women's Day, March 8, POPVOX is spotlighting a variety of bills related to paid leave, an important issue for working women. Recently, the issue has gotten considerable attention with the help of Ivanka Trump.
The United States is the only country among 41 nations without a paid leave policy for new parents, according to the Pew Research Center. The issue recently got a boost from the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who has been meeting with Members of Congress in support of paid maternity leave. While campaigning, then-candidate Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential nominee to offer a proposal for six weeks of paid maternity leave to biological mothers. However, critics have expressed concern that a maternity leave-only policy would lead to employer discrimination against women workers, as well as discriminate against fathers and adoptive mothers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), which was enacted in 1993, provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year for a serious illness, to care for a seriously ill family member or for the birth or adoption of a child. It was expanded in 2009 to include new military family leave benefits. Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
Proposals Pending in Congress
While the FMLA is the only federal law in the books “designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities,” there are several proposals in Congress to expand options to take time off. Weigh in on these bills on POPVOX and share with your friends and networks:
FAMILY ACT (S. 337 and H.R. 947) from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] and Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D, CT-3] “would create a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers – young and elderly, single and married, and men and women, regardless of the size of their employer,” according to the bill sponsor. The bill is modeled after state paid leave programs, and would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
Strong Families Act (S. 344) from Sen. Deb Fischer [R, NE] “would create a tax credit to incentivize businesses to offer at least two weeks of paid family leave per year,” according to the bill sponsors. The leave would be separate from other vacation or sick leave, and workers could take it on an hourly basis. Employers would receive a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 25 percent of what they pay employees during their leave.
Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180) from Rep. Martha Roby [R, AL-2] is known as the “comp-time bill.” It would allow private-sector workers to receive paid time off, or comp time, for overtime hours worked. “A working mom or dad could use an hour of overtime he or she earned as paid ‘time and a half’ off work instead of ‘time and a half’ cash, if that’s what they would rather have,” explained the bill sponsor.
Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (S. 362 and H.R. 1022) from Sen. Brian Schatz [D, HI] and Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D, NY-12] would provide federal employees six weeks of paid leave following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, according to bill sponsors. Currently, federal employees are entitled to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid Family and Medical Leave.
Please keep in mind that highlighting specific legislation does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.