Report: US Joins Lesotho and Swaziland with Worst Policies for Families

To the embarassment of a country with leaders that bill themselves as supporting "family values," a new report by the Project on Global Working Families finds that US federal policies are some of the least supportive of families in the world. 

  • Take paid family leave, which Americans have no right to take under federal law.  Out of 173 countries studied, 168 guarantee leave for women who give birth to a child; 98 of those countries offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave.   So this leaves the US in the company of Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland as the only countries which guarantee no paid leave for mothers in the work force. 
  • Or how about breastfeeding in public? 107 countries protect a women's right to breastfeed, with 73 countries guaranteeing that those breaks are paid for working women.  But the U.S. government does not guarantee the right to breastfeed.
  • Or sick days? 145 countries provide paid sick days for short-term illnesses, yet the US does not guarantee sick days, only unpaid leave for serious illness through the Family and Medical Leave Act-- which doesn't even protect workers in firms with less than 50 employees.

The small bit of good news is that the report only focuses on federal policy -- and states have either acted or are moving to make up for the embarassment of anti-family federal policies.  For example, 36 states protect breastfeeding in public and eleven states specifically protect breastfeeding in the workplace.

In 2002, California pioneered the first paid family leave law in the country, offering parents up to six weeks of paid leave for childbirth, adoption or care of a sick family member.   This week, the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee approved a bill, S2249, to offer tweve weeks of up to $502 in weekly family leave benefits to all employees, which could make New Jersey the second state with paid family leave.  Washington legislative leaders with bipartisan support also introduced HB 1658 to guarantee give weeks of paid leave.

As for paid sick days, only the City of San Francisco requires private employers to guarantee paid days off for employees, but lawmakers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Vermont, Maine, Montana, Michigan and Maryland are pushing paid sick days measures this year.

States aren't quite making up for the pathetic reality of federal policy, but like the minimum wage, they are taking the lead, promoting the idea that the U.S. should actually value families, not just mouth empty "family values" rhetoric.

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