What Family Leave?

Source: Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, June 23, 2008

When it passed in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was supposed to be the beginning of a new movement to reshape the workplace to reflect the needs of working families. But the bill–allowing some workers to take a few weeks off, unpaid, to care for a new baby or a sick family member without losing their jobs–is incomplete. It does nothing for people who simply can’t afford to take unpaid leave, while leaving out 40 percent of the workforce, including millions of workers employed by companies with fewer than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius, those who work part time, or, strangely, flight attendants. The US is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave, putting it on par with such nations as Liberia and Swaziland, according to one study. But for 15 years the FMLA has been the beginning and the end of federal work/family policymaking.

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