Iattended Governor Cuomo’s press conference, at which he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, where he announced his proposal for a 12- week paid family leave to allow an employee to take off from work to care for a sick relative or a newborn child.
The Governor said, emotionally, that he regretted not taking off more time to spend with his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, before he passed away, noting: “Those last weeks and months with him were precious, and they underscored the need to be with family during life’s most important moments…I believe all people should be with their loved ones when they are needed most. Yet for millions of New Yorkers, taking off from work to care for an ailing relative or a new child means risking their most basic financial security. Especially for the working class, taking unpaid leave means losing income, decimating their savings and falling into a cycle of poverty where they have to rely on government assistance just to put food on their table and pay rent. That’s not the fairness and dignity and decency that our state represents.”
I support the Governor’s proposal. Paid family leave represents what we value as a society. Enabling workers to care for loved ones is not only a true mark of who we are as people, but reveals to the world our priorities as a nation. As for its economic impact, critics have voiced concerns that there may be financial hardships to bear on the part of the employer and possibly the worker, but in my view, the emotional hardship of not being able to take care of a sick family member or a newborn outweighs that concern.
Moreover, a worried worker is often not a fully productive worker. Workers who come to the job feeling satisfied that they were able to do their part and contribute to the wellbeing of a loved one, give rise to workers better able to perform their jobs. In fact, the sense of family loyalty and personal satisfaction that paid family leave helps support can also have the added benefit of extending those feelings to a job that values the same traits.
The Governor’s plan for 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave, if passed by the state legislature, will join New York City’s sick leave laws, which provide municipal workers with six weeks of paid leave, in addition to private sector workers with up to five days of employer-paid sick leave in businesses where there are five or more employees. It will mean that, in New York, parents won’t be asked to choose between nurturing a newborn and forgoing a paycheck, and sons and daughters won’t have to choose between taking care of an ailing parent or risk job security.
The United States is the only developed nation without paid family leave. If this legislation is passed in New York, other states will take our lead. Working families are families first, and their work should not be placed in jeopardy to care for a loved one.