This week marks the anniversary of the enactment of the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), our nation’s unpaid leave law. The passage of FLMA in 1993 was a milestone for America, but even then, it was an inadequate law that left most of Americans behind. Only those employees working for large businesses qualify for FMLA. For those who qualify, it is unpaid leave, which is not a viable option for most of us. In Montana, two out of three workers do not qualify for FMLA.
Even though we have not achieved our goal of ensuring that people don’t have to choose between a paycheck and their family, anniversaries help remind us of the momentum that is building around the country for paid family and medical leave and paid sick days.
- In the past two years, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Connecticut passed comprehensive paid family and medical leave programs. This brings the nation to eight states and District of Columbia! In addition, California and New Jersey expanded their programs.
- In December 2019, more than 2 million federal workers gained 12 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, or newly placed foster child.
- Last year, Maine and Nevada passed paid sick days. This brings the nation to 50 locations (states and cities) that guarantee paid sick days.
- Paid leave is getting more press than ever (you can see just a few of the great news stories here) and the stories that are coming out show that this is more than a mom’s issue. This is an economic justice issue and impacts families, dads, people with cancer and other serious diseases, aging family members, and even young people just starting out.
- Nationally, access to employer-provided paid family leave rose – 19 percent of workers now have paid family leave through their jobs, up from 13 percent five years ago. Still, that’s nearly eight in 10 who do not, and most with access are higher income earners.
- The FAMILY Act, a national paid leave bill that would create a national paid family and medical leave program that guarantees virtually every working person up to 12 weeks of paid leave in an affordable, sustainable way, has bipartisan co-sponsorship in the U.S. House of Representatives .
This is incredible progress, but we still have a long road in front of us. A recent report by the Center for American Progress said that every year American workers and their families lose $22.5 billion in wages due to lack of paid leave.
Because nothing with Congress is guaranteed, MBPC and partners continue to work to bring paid leave and sick days to Montana. We will be collecting stories, conducting research, and building support over the next year heading in the 2021 Legislative Session. With your help, hopefully Montana can join the list of states in the coming years.To learn more about how a policy would work in Montana, check out our report Montana FAMLI Act: Policy Design. To learn about the coalition and how you can get involved, visit www.timeformontana.org or follow us on social media.