Opinion

THE PODIUM | A vote for paid family leave is a vote for real family values

Author: Neha Mahajan - May 24, 2018 - Updated: May 24, 2018

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Neha Mahajan

So much for family values.

As the legislative session came to a close, in what appeared to be a partisan and political vote, state Senate Republican lawmakers defeated the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act — or FAMLI Act — which would have established paid family leave in our state. It was a pro-family and pro-small business bill.

At some point, everyone has a sick child, an aging parent or a new baby. Without paid leave, employees — but especially lower-wage employees — go to work anyway because they are at risk of not being able to pay rent. At work, they are stressed, worried and struggle to be productive.

The FAMLI Act would have established a worker-funded pool of money so employees could take the time they need to live up to their family responsibilities and still be able to make ends meet, thus enabling employers to count on focused, productive workers. FAMLI is a common-sense program that would have boosted small businesses by allowing them to compete for employees on benefits, providing funding for the program through employee contributions rather than from their bottom line, and supporting a focused and productive workforce.

Employees who worked 680+ hours in the previous year would be able to use leave for serious illness or care for an ill parent, child, spouse/domestic partner or newly-adopted baby or newborn, knowing they would be eligible for 66% to 95% of their wages (up to $1,000/week for up to 12 weeks in a year) so they could return to work without worrying about how to put food on the table or pay the rent.

Despite a commitment to family values, GOP lawmakers refused to consider crossing party lines in support of this popular measure.

Paid leave is important and inevitable: it’s not a question of if — but when — Colorado’s lawmakers catch up to the will of their constituents. A Washington Post poll found that more than four-fifths of voters — including 80 percent of independents and 65 percent of Republicans — agree that workplace rules to ensure paid time off to care for family members “is good for our nation.” The legislature is inching forward in the right direction, but it is too slow for the public, which is already there.

At 9to5 Colorado, we are deeply disappointed that families will have to continue making painful choices such as attending chemotherapy appointments or facing retaliation on the job; being by their sick baby’s side or paying rent; caring for a dying parent or keeping the lights on.

The House led the way with a Colorado solution to ensure the well-being and financial stability of working families while helping small businesses stay competitive, but the Senate turned its back on working families.

One thing is for sure — we’ll be back next year with FAMLI, so please let your lawmakers know that you support valuing families and paid family leave.

Neha Mahajan

Neha Mahajan

Neha Mahajan is the state director for 9to5 Colorado