The Washington Post ran an in-depth look at the Paid Family Leave debate in the US. Unsurprisingly, the Paid Family Leave community in DC had some reactions. Here are some of their open letters in response.
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As a first time mom to be, I’m grateful for the Post’s series on paid leave, including Vicki Larson’s op-ed. For most of us expecting parents this issue is very real – and very frightening. Like most parents and parents-to- be in my Southeast neighborhood, I’m working myself ragged until my due date, diligently storing vacation days to cobble together leave with some pay when my baby arrives. We’ve been closely following the debates over the District’s proposed paid leave program and the reaction is universal: “I need this to be available right now!” I’ve made sacrifices to save up and my family provides me an incredible support system, but there are many young, hard-working parents who just don’t have the same support. My job is to provide compassionate care and stimulating education to pre-schoolers. Parent-child bonding and learning in the first months and years of a child’s life are critical. Yet the kind of maternity leave I’d like remains financially out of reach. Most mothers I know are waiting on pins and needles hoping the city will take action to create a paid family and medical leave fund for all DC workers. We need and deserve the time to care for our babies. Let’s get this done, DC!
-Yazzmine Holley, Ward 8
I am writing to speak strongly in favor of the DC Paid Family Leave Act, I message I wish to share with The Washington Post's readers.
This bill is necessary because while many workers can request the time needed to care for their families our themselves in times of need, most jobs only make that time available as unpaid leave. This is especially true for low-income or minimum wage employees who are most dependent on their paychecks. It is wrong and unrealistic to expect families, especially those living paycheck to paycheck, to rely on unpaid leave when hard times strike. Without access to paid time away, workers are forced to make impossible choices between caring for the people they love and earning the money needed to provide for those loved ones.
While some DC business interests claim the tax levied upon employers to pay for the program would be too onerous, they completely disregard the benefits those business will accrue as well. If employees know they have job stability and work for an entity that cares for them and about their needs, it will engender increased loyalty towards their employer which will lead to more productivity. In addition this policy will prevent low-income families from descending deeper in to poverty, which will reduce strain on the city’s social services and benefit everyone economically in the long-term. Finally, the policy would make working and/or living in DC more attractive to individuals who currently live and work in other states, and would be a perk that DC employers could offer when attempting to attract new talent.
Therefore, due to the benefits this policy would provide to both workers and employers, the DC Council should resist the opposition they face and pass the bill to establish a mandatory paid family and medical leave program in DC. This will establish the city as a leader on this issue and benefit all residents and workers.
Mike Salamon, Ward 4
Your coverage this week of paid leave policies will focus almost exclusively on women and motherhood. But let's be clear: a well designed paid family and medical leave program would benefit everyone, no matter their gender.
All across our city, fathers are leaving for work because they can't afford to stay home with their newborns. Workers with elderly parents are in anguish over providing the full, compassionate care they want to while knowing their bank accounts only allow them to be with their loved ones on the weekend. Folks with mental health issues risk being fired simply to seek the care they need. And those with chronic illnesses face the compounded struggle of maintaining gainful employment while keeping their symptoms at bay.
There's a reason that 80% of D.C. residents support the paid leave proposal before the Council. It’s because chances are, at some point, all of us will benefit from this policy.
-Doug Foote, Ward 1