Paid family leave has long been an important issue to both working families nationwide and the UFCW, and recent economic data has shown support for instituting paid family leave in America. A recent New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller looks at the recent drop in the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce – those who are working or want to work. The article, based on a July 2014 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, asserts that the drop, while small, has an impact on the overall labor force and can be attributed to stalled progress on family-friendly policies. An important fix, they explain, would be providing paid family leave, which would encourage women to stay in the labor force during motherhood.
The report explains that policies and developments like the Earned Income Tax Credit, birth control, household technology, and increased educational attainment among women caused the rise in labor force participation among women. The report also found that in other advanced countries, family-friendly policies played a part in advancing women’s participation in the workforce. The US has not seen a rise in women’s participation in the workforce since 1990, and the report suggests that’s because of the lack of family friendly policies like paid parental leave and paid family sick leave.
Both Miller and the White House report look to California, with a state Paid Family Leave income-compensation program, as an encouraging example of the effect of paid parental leave. The most promising statistics: low-income mothers more than doubled their the time they took for parental leave after giving birth, and they increased significantly the number of hours mothers worked two to three years after giving birth. There’s no doubt that access to paid family leave is an important factor in whether mothers choose to remain in the labor force after giving birth, as it allows the mother to keep her job and financial stability.
That’s why the UFCW is a strong advocate of paid parental and sick leave for both women and men and why we advocate for these kind of policies in Congress and fight for them in our own union contracts. Women, especially those who work low-wage jobs, face many barriers as they struggle to balance work and a family life. Paid family leave would be an important step in ensuring family economic security for both women and men.