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Gillibrand: FAMILY Act Continues To Build Momentum

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Fresh off the national campaign trail, New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is renewing her push for legislation that would create a real national paid family and medical leave policy for all American workers. 

The New York Democrat’s FAMILY Act has been around since 2013. She feels it has been gaining ground, inspired by a new report that considers her proposal to be the top paid family leave model among voters of all parties.   "Last week, Data For Progress released a report showing what we already knew. Americans overwhelmingly support a real national paid leave family medical leave policy that's accessible affordable and which they own. Americans know that at some point in their lives. Everyone will need to take care and take time off to care for themselves or loved ones and 61 percent of them said they would expect to face significant hardships If they had to take unpaid time off."

Gillibrand, who gave up her presidential campaign in late August, maintains the costs of hiring and training someone new are greater than providing leave to current employees.  "It isn't surprising since the U.S. is [the] only industrialized country that doesn't guarantee its workers some form of paid leave, that's shameful. But the study emphasizes something even more remarkable. It showed that two-thirds of voters support the Family Act that I've campaigned in the senate for years.  We know the bill that would work because it's modeled after successful programs all across the country. The family act would ensure that every worker part-time or full-time large employer small business young or old can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave off for personal or family medical leave emergency or the addition of a child to the family. It creates a fully separate earned benefit a self-sustaining family insurance program funded through small contributions by employers and employees and it costs about the cost of a cup of coffeea week."

Gillibrand has been pressing the issue for years. In April 2015 in Troy, Gillibrand cited a different poll conducted by the Small Business Majority, which found 6 in 10 entrepreneurs in New York state supported a publicly administered family and medical leave program. 

She spoke at 1st Playable Productions in Troy, a video game company of 46 employees, whose CEO Tobi Saulnier told WAMC her employees worked together to establish a paid leave policy, and that Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act would help the company extend its policy and encourage other small businesses to adopt their own.   “For small businesses in particular it can be quite challenging to make a paid leave [policy] work. Not only do we have staffing logistics required to still meet our business commitments, the financial impact can be quite daunting.”

Gillibrand says she’s calling on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the FAMILY Act to the floor for a vote.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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