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Public Statements

Future of the FMLA

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I read with interest Majority Leader Cantor's speech last week on the majority's latest relaunch of the House GOP's attempt to identify with the middle class.

Leader Cantor said that the House will pursue an agenda of health, happiness, and prosperity for more Americans and their families. He went on to identify a very important problem for millions of Americans: how to balance work and family.

Unfortunately, that was the end of the relaunch. Because to address this problem, the majority leader proposed an old scheme that actually takes away workers' rights to overtime pay in exchange for employer-controlled comp time. This scheme has been bouncing around the Big Business wish list for decades. It's a twofer for Big Business: workers get less predictable schedules, and they earn less pay.

Leader Cantor's prescription for what ails working families is to administer more poison. It's to give a working parent less control over her life and less money in her pocket. This plan does not give workers flexibility. This plan is about giving corporations another way to pay workers less.

That's how you help working families? I don't think so.

If the Republican majority party wants to seriously talk about healthy, prosperous, and happy American families, then they should help to create real opportunities to help families to be healthy, prosperous, and happy.

Here's one serious way to help working families: give workers real flexibility on the job and the ability to take advantage of paid time off.

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Back in 1993, this law was a big step forward for America. It guarantees workers job-protected leave when they need time off for family or health reasons, for a newborn child, to take care of a sick child or spouse. It's been used more than 100 million times over the last 20 years. Workers got to take off time to care for a newborn or sick spouse or to get an operation without fear of losing their job.

With the Family and Medical Leave Act, our country made it a priority to give workers the ability to balance the demands of work and family. It made the healthy development of babies, healthy families, and healthy workplaces a priority. It was a remarkable accomplishment at the time, but it was intended to be a first step, not the last.

Today, only half of all workers can take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The rest are ineligible because of their part-time status or who their employer is. Half of all workers don't have job protections to take time off to welcome a new baby to the family. They can't take time off to help an elderly parent without fear of losing their job.

Here's another serious idea to help working families: Extend the family and medical leave protection to all workers. And furthermore, let's guarantee paid leave under the law. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees unpaid job-protected leave. Too many families simply cannot afford to miss a day or two of work. That's why Congress should finally deliver on the paid leave that our Nation's workers deserve.

I recently heard from Matari Jones from San Antonio, Texas. While she said that the family and medical leave was a godsend when her children were born, taking unpaid time off to care for her newborns to heal from a complicated delivery was a significant financial struggle. Unfortunately, Matari was not alone. A working woman--or any worker, for that matter--shouldn't have to choose between family members they love or the paycheck they need.

California, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Washington State, and New Jersey have taken steps for paid family and medical leave and sick leave. The policy is good for families, and it is good for business.

The least-paid workers in our society are also least likely to be able to afford a day off when they are sick. Many of those workers are behind the lunch counter or taking care of our older family members.

If Leader Cantor and this House are truly serious about helping working families, then let's deliver on the full promise of workplace leave policies that properly value our Nation's families. Extend family and medical leave benefits to all workers, and look for ways to guarantee workers' access to paid family and medical leave and to sick leave.

There are other steps Congress should take to ensure that workers can share the prosperity that they're helping to create. Let's make sure that women are paid based upon their worth by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. Let's raise the minimum wage that will boost the economy by putting money into the pockets of millions of working people.

So I would say to my friend from Virginia, the majority leader, if he is serious about helping working families, then join with us and let's enact policies that put these families first in both the workplace and in their homes.


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