Gillibrand & Sheehan Unveil FAMILY Act

Jan 10, 2014

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at the podium in the rotunda at Albany City Hall.
Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan Friday announced federal legislation that would create paid family and medical leave.

Mayor Sheehan welcomed US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to city hall for the historic announcement.

The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member.  "And more often than not, it's women who leave the workforce to care for that family member. When they do, they bring home less income, they reduce their future potential at that employer's. They will miss out on opportunities for raises and promotions. And they also lose out on retirement benefits. And this can set women behind, risk their future success, and risk the stability of their entire family. This can also hurt business. Today's lack of paid family medical leave leaves some of our most highly skilled, hardest workers, out of the workforce. Democrats and Republicans can agree. America's strongest asset is our people. We should change our policies to reflect that," said Gillibrand.

Existing federal law provides unpaid time off for serious, personal or family obligations. Gillibrand's concept of Family Leave would be funded equally by the employee and employer. Mayor Sheehan says even though the city's purse strings are tight, she is okay with any additional cost to implement family leave within the framework of municipal government - she regards it as 'an insurance policy:'   "One of the things that holds back small businesses and places like city government from replacing peoples' salary is that it really depends on your experience as an employer. So if you're a small business and have two employees who need to go out because they have a sick family member or give birth to a child, that can become unaffordable. But if you;re paying in a small amount each week per employee and have something that's administered by the federal government so you don't have to create the administrative burden and the infrastructure to administer it, it gives us a way to be able to provide what we all recognize as a much-needed benefit in a fair affordable way."

Gillibrand says America is far behind other nations when it comes to Family Leave policy.  "Even Afghanistan offers paid leave. You'd be surprised the countries that offer paid leave ... in compared to the fact that we don't."

Gillibrand added most European nations offer up to 6 months paid leave. The U.S. version would be overseen by the Social Security Administration.