Ted Cruz to working mother: Don’t push it on paid family leave

hanauer quote[Via Civic Skunk Works] Here at Civic Skunk Works, we’ve spent a quite a bit of time pointing out that trickle-down economics has never been anything more than an intimidation tactic masquerading as an economic theory. For decades, politicians (from both parties) and businesses have been employing this tactic in order to scare workers into paralysis. Think about the claims which trickle-down proponents have repeated over and over again:

  • “If you raise the minimum wage, jobs will be lost.”
  • “If you tax the wealthy, jobs will be lost.”
  • “If regulation of the powerful goes up, jobs will be lost.

In short, don’t push it, buddy.

And this Monday, Ted Cruz provided a perfect illustration of this bullying tactic. The Texas senator was asked by a mother of four “what he would do about the current lack of federally mandated paid family leave.” A very good question on a very important subject which affects all working Americans. According to Think Progress, Cruz callously replied:

Giving away free stuff is very easy for politicians to do, but the simplest rule of economics is TANSTAAFL — there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Anything a politician gives you, he must first take from you. And so if you have the federal government mandate paid medical leave,what that ends up doing is driving up the cost of labor for low-income workers.

What he’s saying is: don’t ask for too much or you’ll be priced out of a job. And just in case this mother of four missed the veiled threat, he hammers the point home when he adds, “And by the way, if you get fired or laid off, not only do you not get paid family leave but you don’t get a paycheck either.”

Do you see how slimy this strategy is? Do you see how strong-handed this approach is? Do you see how they are striking fear and doubt into the minds of American workers?

And this isn’t anything new. This is how Republicans and businesses have been framing workplace benefits for a very long time. They’ve perpetually tried to scare the American worker by threatening to cut their jobs if they ever asked for too much. (What they define as “too much” has been ever-changing. Forty years ago occupational health and safety fit under such a category, today it’s paid leave, tomorrow it may be vacation time.) In economically anxious times they know this intimidation tactic often works. Why take a chance and try to push for better benefits if your job is already in the balance?

The truth is paid family leave is actually good for businesses, the worker, and society in general. For businesses specifically paid leave improves worker retention, increases worker productivity, and improves employee loyalty and morale. How do we know this? Well, for one, paid family leave insurance programs “are already working well in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.” That’s right – paid leave already exists in the three states and none of those state economies has nosedived into economic catastrophe. As Think Progresshighlights:

Evidence from the first two states shows that [paid family leave programs] haven’t hurt employers. About 90 percent of California businesses say that it either had a positive impact or none on profitability, employee performance, and productivity, while it helped reduce turnover, saving them an estimated $89 million each year. Themajority of New Jersey businesses surveyed also said that it hasn’t hurt their finances and some saw a benefit.

The job-killing dystopia which Ted Cruz foreshadowed to the mother of four is simply a trick. Thankfully, we know why politicians like Cruz are continuing to sell this scam to the American worker: because if he can get workers to believe this scary tale, big businesses and their politicians win.

Congratulations on paid sick and safe leave, Spokane!

spokane-sick-and-safe-leave-300x300On January 11, 2016, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance assuring most people working in the city the right to earn paid sick and safe leave starting next year.  The Council voted 6 to 1 for the ordinance.

At the start of Monday evening’s 5 ½ hour long council meeting, the policy on the table provided for only three days of paid sick time. After listening to testimony from over 50 people – the overwhelming majority of them favoring a universal policy of at least five days, the Council amended the proposal. The ordinance as passed allows workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 5 days in companies with 10 or more employees, and up to 3 days in smaller firms. Paid leave can be used for the health needs of the worker or a family member, bereavement, and to deal with the consequences of domestic violence or sexual assault.

The Spokane Alliance led the Earned Sick and Safe Time Spokane Coalition in a remarkable two-year organizing effort that included a listening tour with over 50 small businesses and nonprofits, multiple community forums, and collecting stories of impacted workers. They coordinated testimony and turnout at hearings and events, submission of letters to the editor and op-eds, and the delivery of over 1,000 public comments to Council members.

Spokane is the first jurisdiction in 2016 to pass a paid sick days law. In 2015, Tacoma was first out of the gate. Four states and more than 20 U.S. cities, including Seattle, SeaTac, and Portland, now have sick leave laws in place.


Testimony of Marilyn Watkins, EOI Policy Director »

Testimony of Kira Lewis, RN, BSN »

What’s missing from Amazon’s new parental leave policy

dad office babyAmazon made a big announcement [in November] about parental leave. This comes after the firestorm following the New York Times article on Amazon’s office culture (including how unfriendly it was to new parents).

In an email message forwarded to Jezebel, Amazon is now going to offer up to 20 weeks of parental leave for birth mothers, and six weeks for all other new parents. The policy includes a new “leave-share” program aimed to help Amazon employees share their leave time with partners who may not have a leave policy at their workplace. There’s also a “ramp-back” program, which is designed help new parents transition back to work.

“One hopes that [Amazon’s policies] are about boosting morale,” Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, tells Fast Company. The national network of 21 state and local coalitions aims to grow the movement for family-friendly work policies.

“All these policies are great,” says Bravo, especially the leave share, as it acknowledges that many partners need affordable leave but don’t get it. “You have to have a clear message from the top on paper,” she adds. But Bravo believes there’s something important missing from the announcement.

Full story: Fast Company »

Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family

Jakub Zielkiewicz, Aimee Barnes and their 15-month-old son, Roman, at their home in Sacramento. “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything,” Ms. Barnes said. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Jakub Zielkiewicz, Aimee Barnes and their 15-month-old son, Roman, at their home in Sacramento. “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything,” Ms. Barnes said. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Children are much more likely than not to grow up in a household in which their parents work, and in nearly half of all two-parent families today, both parents work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades.

What hasn’t changed: the difficulty of balancing it all. Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

he survey found something of a stress gap by race and education. College-educated parents and white parents were significantly more likely than other parents to say work-family balance is difficult.

The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.

“This is not an individual problem, it is a social problem,” said Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist and the founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California, San Diego. “This is creating a stress for working parents that is affecting life at home and for children, and we need a societal-wide response.”

Full story: New York Times »

For Women, Income Inequality Continues Into Retirement


Lydia Smith stands in the kitchen of her home in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. She has lived in this apartment for 46 years, and now that she is on a fixed income, she pays rent with the aid of Section 8 tenant-based assistance. Photo: Megan Miller for NPR

[Via: NPR.org] Poverty does not treat men and women equally, especially in old age. Women 65 years old and older who are living in poverty outnumber men in those circumstances by more than 2 to 1. And these women are likely to face the greatest deprivation as they become older and more frail.

This pretty much describes the situation of 87-year-old Lydia Smith.

In her small, tidy apartment near downtown Los Angeles, she’s surrounded by dozens of family photographs. She picks out one and points to her twin sister, her mother and her brother. “Unfortunately, he’s gone,” she says. “She’s gone,” she says, pointing to her sister. And “Mama’s gone,” she says.

Smith, a war bride, came to the United States from Rome with her family after World War II. But she got divorced in the 1950s and never remarried. Once her son and daughter were grown, she moved to this second-story walk-up.

“I’ve been here 46 years in this apartment,” she says. “I have no intention of moving, either.”

How could she disrupt all of her neatly arranged collections? There’s a basket of baby dolls, a Barbie-filled breakfront and a bunch of Hello Kitty knickknacks. All are the result of a discerning eye and the local Goodwill store, pretty much the only place she’s bought anything in years.

She gets just over $900 a month from Social Security, and that’s it. Her apartment is subsidized through a program called Section 8. She pays about a third of her income in rent; the government picks up the rest. Smith doesn’t get food stamps, but she does qualify for Medicaid. That’s a good thing, since she’s being treated for a heart condition and severe arthritis.

“When you’re in constant pain, you have no desire to be active,” Smith says. “So this is why I stay home a lot. I don’t go places.”

Smith never saved for retirement. It didn’t occur to her. And with the kind of money she made working as a clerk in a department store and a cashier at a restaurant, there wasn’t much left over anyway.

This is the story of most of the 2.6 million women ages 65 and over who are living at or below the poverty line, says Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center.

Read more: NPR.org »

Zillow expands its family leave policy

KIRO TV interviewed Marilyn Watkins from the Economic Opportunity Institute about local tech companies expanding family leave benefits will catch on with lawmakers: “What I’m hopeful that will happen is that this will then encourage our state Legislature to act and move forward on adopting a paid family leave program that would cover everybody.” Yes indeed!

Watch it on KIRO: 


Paid family-leave proposal arrives with force before D.C. Council

working-dadDozens of supporters of a controversial proposal for the nation’s most generous family-leave law, including parents, small-business owners and union members, urged city lawmakers Tuesday to pass the measure supported by a majority of the D.C. Council.

“We’re here for all of the obvious reasons,” said Jamie Smith, of the Chevy Chase neighborhood, who had her 10-month-old son, Adam, bouncing on her lap at Tuesday’s council meeting at the Wilson Building. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Seven of the council’s 13 members co-introduced the proposed law Tuesday that would give every D.C. resident as much as 16 weeks of paid family leave.

The measure, developed with the help of the Obama administration, would allow residents to take paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a terminally ill relative, or for just about any life-changing event in between.

The broad new benefit would be paid for by a tax on D.C. employers of up to 1 percent of employees’ salaries. Business leaders warned that could be hurtful and put them at a competitive disadvantage regionally, but D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) moved to streamline a review of the proposed law, keeping it before his committee and therefore one step from a councilwide vote.

Full story: Washington Post »