There is a growing conversation in Oregon and across our country about family leave — because the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is insufficient in two key ways: it’s unpaid and doesn’t cover all workers. Family Forward Oregon’s Executive Director Andrea Paluso wrote this guest opinion piece to raise awareness about the failings of what we (don’t) have now, and to make sure that anyone thinking about a pathway forward on family leave is working toward a paid program.
It is good to see the subject of family leave getting so much attention in recent weeks, especially in Susan Nielsen’s May 19 commentary, “Protect life-or-death heart of Oregon family leave,” which recognizes the reality that most of us will face some family responsibilities while we are employed and acknowledges that we’re all better off when there are public and workplace policies that allow important family caregiving to take place — sometimes during work hours.What hasn’t been raised yet is the elephant in the room: the enormous disconnect between family life and family policy in the United States today. Our work-family policies (the few we have) were designed when most families were configured very differently, with a full-time breadwinner dad and a full-time stay-at-home mom. Today just 1 in 5 American families fit that description.The current conversation in Salem and in the media about needed expansions to our state’s family leave laws is a reflection of just how much our family structures and workplaces have shifted in recent decades — and the daily, significant conflict most families are feeling as they work to balance very real, often incongruous, responsibilities at work and at home. This conflict often results in economic insecurity and prevents the kind of responsible family caregiving we all value.
Read her full opinion piece in The Oregonian here.