K Street Files: Activists Lobby for Paid Leave

Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:38am

More than 200 activists are visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill today to lobby for legislation that would grant workers a minimum number of sick days and for a federal family leave insurance program.

The visits are part of a two-day summit on paid sick days and family leave organized by the National Partnership for Women and Families and Family Values @ Work, two nonprofits that have won expanded leave policies in several states and cities, including Connecticut, Philadelphia and Seattle.

While the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical and family reasons, many workers can’t afford to take the time off or don’t qualify, said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. The act covers only employers with 50 or more workers.

“The Family and Medical Leave Act is a great start, but it’s unpaid,” Bravo said. “A lot of people who are eligible for family leave cannot take it, most of them because they cannot afford to be without pay.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) met on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning with the activists, who represented working parents, labor and women’s leaders and the disabled. Pelosi received an award for her leadership on behalf of working men and women. Harkin has authored a bill, the Healthy Families Act, that would guarantee up to seven days of paid sick time for American workers.