05.18.21

In Hearing, Chair Murray Argues for Making Paid Leave “A Right for All, Not a Privilege for Some”

Murray makes case for paid leave in President Biden’s American Families Plan

 

United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave, and 4 out of 5 private sector workers don’t have paid leave

 

Senator Murray: “It is far past time to make progress, and it is far past time we make paid leave a right for all, not a privilege for some.”

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, held the first HELP Committee hearing solely on paid leave since 2007, and pushed for the United States to finally join nearly every other developed country in the world and establish a national paid sick, family, and medical leave policy. In her opening remarks, Senator Murray stressed that millions of workers across the country have had to weather this pandemic without paid leave—disproportionately women, workers of color, workers who are paid low incomes, and workers with disabilities—and highlighted how a lack of a national paid leave policy isn’t just bad for workers, it’s also bad for our public health, small businesses, and for our economy.

 

“Today, we are the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave. When this pandemic struck, we saw just how costly this has been for workers, families, businesses, and our country. Millions of workers were forced to choose between the wellbeing of themselves, their coworkers, and their families, or their paycheck,” said Senator Murray. “Millions were infected and millions more—especially women and workers of color—were forced out of their jobs in large part due to lacking paid leave or quality, affordable child care options. That’s a tragedy we can’t afford, we can’t repeat—and we know we can address.”

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray noted that four of five private sector workers are without access to paid leave and nearly one in four mothers are forced return to work within two weeks of giving birth. She also highlighted that the access to paid leave numbers are worse for women, workers of color, workers who are paid low-incomes, and workers with disabilities—too many of whom have to make impossible choices between caring for themselves or a loved one and their paycheck.

 

This pandemic has made clear that efforts to rebuild a stronger and fairer economy—and better prepare for future public health emergencies—absolutely must include a comprehensive national paid sick, family, and medical leave policy. Senator Murray urged her colleagues to support this common sense policy and join her in pushing to pass the FAMILY Act, a bill she reintroduced along with Senator Gillibrand to establish a paid family and medical leave program, and the Health Families Act, a bill she re-introduced with Congresswoman DeLauro to provide workers with paid sick days.

 

“We cannot rebuild a stronger and fairer economy if workers are forced to choose between their—and their families’—health, or their paychecks,” continued Senator Murray. “It’s why I’m going to do everything I can to get the paid leave policy President Biden proposed in the American Families Plan across the finish line.”

 

With the support of President Biden and Vice President Harris, Senator Murray made clear that momentum is growing behind paid leave. She stressed that this policy will help employers with recruitment, retention and morale, it will strengthen our economy and our public health, and it will finally ensure that paid leave is a right for all workers.

 

“The fact that in our country today—amid a pandemic no less—people are still forced to choose between the paycheck they need to make ends meet and taking time to care for themselves or their families, welcome a new child, or even grieve a lost loved one—is unconscionable and unacceptable,” continued Senator Murray. “It’s bad for families, as any working mom or dad, or anyone who cares for a family member with a disability, knows all too well. And it’s bad for our economy, as a lack of paid leave means employees lose wages, and businesses lose workers. Studies have shown providing paid leave improves employee recruitment, retention, productivity, and morale, overall business performance and profitability, and can reduce pay inequities for women and workers of color. Which is why it is far past time to make progress, and it is far past time we make paid leave a right for all, not a privilege for some.”

 

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

 

“Paid leave is an issue I’ve been focused on since I first got into politics.


“When I came to the Senate in 1993, the first bill we worked on was the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provided job-protected unpaid leave to workers across the country.

“It was a hard-fought victory for families.

 

“But even then, it was clear that bill was a first step, and we’ve been fighting since then to take the next one.

 

“Today, we are the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave.

 

“Nearly one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, one in five retirees are forced to leave the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill family member, and four of five private sector workers have no access to paid leave.

 

“The numbers are even worse for workers who are paid the lowest wages—workers who are disproportionately women and people of color.

 

“Nineteen out of twenty of these workers have no paid family leave.

 

“And studies show that while workers with disabilities may be more likely to need paid leave in order to care for their own health, they are also less likely to have it, since they are disproportionately part-time or low-wage workers.

 

“When this pandemic struck, we saw just how costly this has been for workers, families, businesses, and our country.

 

“Millions of workers were forced to choose between the wellbeing of themselves, their coworkers, and their families, or their paycheck.

 

“Millions were infected and millions more—especially women and workers of color—were forced out of their jobs in large part due to lacking paid leave or quality, affordable child care options.

 

“That’s a tragedy we can’t afford, we can’t repeat—and we know we can address.

 

“Last year, at the dawn of this pandemic, Congress included an expansion of paid leave in COVID relief legislation.

 

“Now, that language wasn’t permanent and it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it needed to be.

 

“But it was impactful—one estimate shows it cut infections by 15,000 a day in April of last year.

 

“As we look to learn all of the lessons of this pandemic, and make sure we are better prepared for future public health emergencies—one lesson is crystal clear: our country needs a comprehensive national paid sick, family, and medical leave policy.

 

“We cannot rebuild a stronger and fairer economy if workers are forced to choose between their—and their families’—health, or their paychecks.

 

“That’s why I’ve joined Senator Gillibrand, who has long been a champion on this issue, in reintroducing the FAMILY Act to provide paid family and medical leave to all workers.

 

“It’s why I re-introduced my Healthy Families Act with Congresswoman DeLauro so workers across the country can earn paid sick days and put their health first.

 

“And it’s why I’m going to do everything I can to get the paid leave policy President Biden proposed in the American Families Plan across the finish line.

“President Biden’s proposal would create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program so that workers can take paid time off to bond with a new child, care for a loved one who is aging, ill, or has a disability, deal with a loved one’s military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, heal from their own serious illness, or take time to deal with the death of a loved one.

 

“Providing paid leave isn’t radical—it’s common sense, it’s basic decency, and it’s a public health necessity.

 

“Several states, including my home state of Washington, have already taken action to guarantee access to paid leave—it’s well past time we make the same guarantee to families across the county.

 

“When I spoke on the Senate floor in 1993, about the need to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, I shared the story of a friend of mine.

 

“Her employer told her she could spend time with her son who was diagnosed with leukemia, or she could keep her job.

 

“That’s an impossible decision—that no one should ever have to make.

 

“While providing unpaid leave was a step forward, the fact that in our country today—amid a pandemic no less—people are still forced to choose between the paycheck they need to make ends meet and taking time to care for themselves or their families, welcome a new child, or even grieve a lost loved one—is unconscionable and unacceptable.


“It’s bad for families, as any working mom or dad, or anyone who cares for a family member with a disability, knows all too well.


“And it’s bad for our economy, as a lack of paid leave means employees lose wages, and businesses lose workers.

 

“Studies have shown providing paid leave improves employee recruitment, retention, productivity, and morale, overall business performance and profitability, and can reduce pay inequities for women and workers of color.

 

“Which is why it is far past time to make progress, and it is far past time we make paid leave a right for all, not a privilege for some.

 

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how important this is, and I hope to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally make it happen.

 

“And now I’ll turn it over to the Ranking Member, Senator Burr, for his opening remarks. 

 

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