Heading to the White House Summit on Working Families
Today the President, First Lady, and Vice President and Mrs. Biden are underscoring the importance of improving the daily lives of millions of working families by participating in the White House Summit on Working Families. The President highlighted the need for workplace policies that meet the most basic family needs in his Weekly Address on Saturday. He emphasized the need for maternity leave and other forms of leave time, child care, and workplace flexibility. He pointed out that the U.S. stands alone among developed nations in not guaranteeing leave. His strong statement is important: it shines a light on the struggles that most parents face, and calls for a national commitment towards a better balance of work and family responsibilities.
Business leaders will be at the Summit, and the President is right to call upon them to improve conditions for workers. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has released a report in connection with the White House Summit which not only documents the unmet need for paid and unpaid leave, but also shows that employers can benefit from increased stability in their workforce when workers get family and sick leave. To cite one finding, after California adopted its paid family leave program, a survey of 253 employers found that over 90 percent reported no noticeable or a positive effect on profitability, turnover, and morale.
Business should step up to the plate – only 59 percent of workers overall have access to paid leave, and, as noted in this week’s Head Smacker, low-wage workers are least likely to have paid leave. So should states and localities. California, New Jersey, Connecticut and other places have led the way, and demonstrated that businesses are not harmed – and sometimes are helped – by requiring family-friendly policies. It would be nice to think that Congress would shake off its partisan divide long enough to enact steps to make life easier for families. As the CEA report points out, this is a very big deal for families with young children, but it is also increasingly an issue for people caring for aged parents. For increasing numbers of families, caregiving for young or old family members is a fact of life. But Congressional gridlock is a regrettable fact of life, too. That’s why the Administration’s public push on these issues is helpful pressure. We need both private and public action. We also need the public to insist to Congress that its job is to require minimally adequate policies from employers, from the minimum wage to workplace practices like leave time. And to hold Congress accountable when instead it passes tax break after tax break for corporations regardless of their treatment of workers. If you’re reading this, please take the time to watch the live stream of today’s Summit and join the conversation by tweeting your questions and ideas to #FamiliesSucceed and following the Facebook Q&A’s.
I’ll be at the Summit. I’ll share some of what seems important as soon as I can.