The Washington Post's Editorial Board wrote a misguided and inaccurate editorial about the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015. In response, several people wrote letters to the Washington Post Editor with corrections to show why they care about Paid Family Leave for DC. Here are some of the letters that show why DC needs Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Letter to the Editor Submitted by Reverend Rob Keithan Ward 5
Wednesday’s Post Editorial “D.C.’s paid-leave proposal goes way too far” takes an incredibly narrow, amoral, approach to the issue. As a DC resident for more than 20 years, an ordained minister, and a new father with no paid family leave, I think we deserve both better policies and a better conversation about this topic.
Notably, the tiny nod “No doubt the American workplace needs to become more family-friendly” is a gross understatement of the situation. Among the 41 developed economies, the United States is the only nation that doesn’t require paid family leave, and we mandate the shortest period of unpaid leave (12 weeks). Given this, I’m proud that the District of Columbia might lead the United States in doing what’s right—and long overdue. The DC proposal appropriately ensures that low-income workers benefit the most, while still covering others—like my wife and me—who are economically secure yet have no paid leave. Our daughter was born 7 weeks premature, which means 7 additional weeks of having to choose between going to work and being with our newborn. In a place that actually valued families, it’s a choice no parent would be forced to make.
Letter to the Editor Submitted by Michele Grossman Ward 1
I was truly disappointed to read the editorial entitled "D.C.'s paid-leave proposal goes way too far." The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not provide paid time off for new parents. Nationally, only 13% of working families are guaranteed paid leave when they have a child, and those workers are overwhelmingly within a higher income bracket. Sixteen weeks of personal medical leave is less than what California offers (52 weeks), and it is the amount of time that health providers recommend for parents to spend with newborns.
Paid leave is not a threat to businesses' bottom line. In California 9 out of 10 businesses report that paid leave has had a neutral or positive effect on their business. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 was designed as an insurance system to protect small businesses, with lower pay-ins for lower income working families.
This bill is designed to benefit lower income workers, with a 100% reimbursement rate for people earning $52,000 per annum or less, and progressively lower reimbursement rates for additional salary.
Over the past 30 years, the gap between CEO pay and worker pay has skyrocketed. We need more family-friendly policies to address the wage gap—not fewer.
Letter to the Editor Submitted by Shira Bergstein Ward 2
The progressive and family-friendly paid leave policy you criticized in your October 15 editorial makes me proud to be a DC resident.
My mom has spent nearly one-third of her 65 years as a primary caretaker for chronically ill parents and siblings. How amazing would it have been if a program existed, from which she, even for a short period, could have benefited?! Growing up, I saw how physically exhausting and emotionally stressful it was for her to balance the demands of work while also upholding her other – and more essential - daily obligation of caring for her loved ones at the most vulnerable point in their lives. Paid family and medical leave would have enabled her to be a better caretaker, a less stressed parent, and a more productive employee. With more and more working people caring full time for aging and ailing relatives, it's time to lead on leave.
Birth, death, and illness occur at all income levels, and I’m particularly pleased that DC council members recognize the economic burden transformative life events place on DC residents and workers with the least financial resources. By creating a broad insurance-like program with a progressive payout, we can best support all families and businesses.
I'd like to remind the Editorial Board that when your family's health is in question, sixteen weeks hardly seems like a big deal.
Letter to the Editor: Paid Leave is Necessary for Child Health Yael Smiley, MD Ward 1
DC children and their families need paid family leave. Nurturing parents are critical to child health, while recovering from an illness or in the weeks following birth.
As a physician I care for many children who must face their illnesses alone because their parents can’t afford to take time off of work to be at the hospital. If we value healthy families we must not allow parents and children to be put in such a circumstance. Pediatricians know from research and experience that when children are facing an illness, having a parent by their side makes a significant difference to their recovery.
When new parents utilize paid family leave policies, infants benefit from a longer time breastfeeding, better well-child care and immunizations, and decreased child mortality. Families need support to establish nurturing relationships with their children during the critical time of development after birth.
DC's Universal Paid Leave Act is long overdue. It meets basic health and financial security needs for all families in DC. Physicians and our healthcare system need parents who are free to put their families first.
Corrections to Washington Post Editorial Michelle McGrain Ward 1
Letter to the Editor Kavitha Kasargod-Staub Ward 4
The day after my son was born, my husband and I learned that my mother-in-law's chemo had stopped working. We were devastated and only a few short months later we lost her to cancer. How are families supposed to make it through trying times like this without paid family and medical leave?
I was disappointed to read the editorial in yesterday's Washington Post that suggested that the Universal Paid Leave Act before the DC Council is "too far too fast." For families who are dealing with severe medical crises, this can't come fast enough. And for new parents facing sleepless nights and hormone fluctuations, 16 weeks is when life just barely starts to feel manageable. These are universal human experiences (though it would seem the Washington Post editors are immune to such family difficulties), and the only humane response is to support paid leave for all district residents and workers.
Letter to the Editor Rachel Fauber Ward 1
Have any of the editors at The Washington Post ever had to care for an aging parent, taken parental leave, adopted a baby, or supported a sibling through an illness?
Apparently not. The Oct. 14 editorial “D.C.’s paid-leave proposal goes way too far,” demonstrates just how out of touch the Post’s editors are with D.C. residents and working families who support the paid family leave bill (76% of them do, according to The Washington Post’s own poll).
Sixteen weeks of personal medical leave isn’t too generous – it is less than what California offers (52 weeks), and it is the amount of time that health providers recommend for parents to spend with newborns. A policy like the proposed one only makes D.C. more attractive to top talent across the country – a benefit for the city’s employers. And the program would make the District a more equitable place for its residents, who are socioeconomically diverse – the bill would provide a 100% reimbursement rate for people earning $52,000 per annum or less, and progressively lower the reimbursement rate for additional salary.
Plus, when the rest of the country thinks of D.C., all they picture are ineffective legislators. I applaud the D.C. City Council for showing the rest of the country we’re not all incompetent in the District, and that government can build a better, more compassionate, and more ethical society.
Letter to the Editor Gary Barker Ward 2
I was disappointed to read the "D.C.’s paid-leave proposal goes way too far" op-ed published on October 14 by the Washington Post's Editorial Board. In the context of countries that have taken a global lead on paid leave, the United States has fallen extremely far behind the curve in supporting families with children. The European Union recommends, and studies show, that 16 weeks of non-transferable leave for fathers and mothers leads to measurable equality in pay, and to long-run equality in care-giving, among other benefits for men, women and children. And the results show that paid leave doesn't reduce economic growth; it frees up women's time to be in the workplace, which increases economic growth.
DC's legislators should be championed, not shamed for taking a progressive stance on leave. I believe that not only does this policy not go 'way too far' but that we should push further: ensuring subsidized childcare, flexible working hours, and other measures to ensure that all individuals have the right to care for their families. As the head of an organization with its office in the district, I’m happy to pay the benefit and have it substitute or complement the paid leave we already offer.
Letter to the Editor Alexis McNutt New Jersey
As a soon-to-be mom, I was appalled at the anti-family stance taken in the recent editorial “The paid-leave pipe dream.” As a New Jersey resident pregnant with my first child, I have had to navigate the complex system of paid leave to figure out how to take enough leave to recuperate from giving birth physically and to bond with my newborn. I found this editorial callus, unfeeling, and just plain mean – not to mention the gross inaccuracies and factual errors. You argued that plenty of workers already have paid vacation, but having a baby is NOT like taking a vacation. I have had to miss key family events, including a cousin’s wedding, to desperately save vacation days so I can spend an extra week with my newborn. Policies like these help employees and businesses, and are what make families and communities stronger. If this proposal passes into law, I would certainly consider moving to D.C. for my second child.
-Alexis McNutt Unis New Jersey
Letter to the Editor Ellen Bravo Milwaukee, WI
In its critique of DC's paid leave proposal, the editorial board makes three key errors. First, it assumes only low-income workers lack access to affordable leave. In fact, only 13% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40% have medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. For far too many, caring for a new baby or a loved one with a serious illness means financial chaos.
Secondly, the editors ignore what 3 states and most of the world have figured out: the most cost-effective way to ensure paid leave is a social insurance fund that pools small contributions so wage replacement is available to those needing leave - a fraction of those in the pool.
Finally, the editorial wrongly assumes employers don't bear a cost now for the lack of affordable leave - from job loss, worse health outcomes, higher infant and maternal mortality, greater need for public assistance, loss of independence and higher nursing home costs for seniors. DC’s paid leave bill will bring greater financial and employment stability – a boost for all.
Thank you to DC council members for focusing on a much-needed solution.
Ellen Bravo directs Family Values @ Work, a national network of state coalitions working for policies like family and medical leave insurance.