WASHINGTON - Renewing a push for paid leave for workers, President Barack Obama on Thursday will call on Congress, states and cities to pass measures to allow millions of workers to earn up to a week of paid sick time a year, the White House said. He'll also ask Congress for more than $2 billion in new spending to encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs.
Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Wednesday that Obama will also take steps to provide federal employees with at least six weeks paid sick leave to care for a new child, and propose that Congress offer its employees six weeks off, too.
More than 40 million US private sector workers don't have any type of paid sick leave, Jarrett said, meaning they lose pay if they stay home when sick or to care for someone who is.
While some companies offer paid family leave to attract talent, the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act only requires that employers provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.
The US is also the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.
The Congress that expired at the end of last year did not pass legislation that has been sponsored for several years by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to allow workers to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick leave. Under the proposal, they would earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. Employers that already provide paid sick time would not have to change their policies as long as their existing time can be used for the same purposes.
Both houses of the new Congress that convened this month are controlled by Republicans. But the chances that lawmakers will send the bill to Obama in the next two years appear slim to none, given that DeLauro first introduced the bill in 2005. She said Wednesday that she will reintroduce the measure soon with Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., as prime co-sponsors.
"Workplaces need to respond to the reality of family life in the 21st century, and allowing employees to have seven sick days a year is a bare minimum," the congresswoman said. "The fact that the United States is one of just a handful of countries that does not require paid family or sick leave is nothing short of shameful."
Jarrett said the announcement Obama will make Thursday follows up on a White House Summit on Working Families the president convened last June in Washington. The announcement will also be the latest in a series of near-daily previews by Obama of initiatives he plans to discuss in next week's nationally televised State of the Union address.