DC mayor won’t veto DC’s progressive paid family leave

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

In late December, the Washington, DC city council passed what would be the country’s most generous paid family leave program. And on Wednesday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to veto it, thus allowing it to go into law. The final step lies with Congress, which has 30 days to review it and potentially take action before the law can take effect and benefits can be paid out by 2020.

Bowser had publicly questioned the bill, particularly the cost to implement it. While in her letter sending the bill back to the council without a veto she said that “DC families should have time to care for themselves and their loved ones,” she listed a number of “grave concerns” about the legislation, including the small increase in payroll taxes that will be levied to fund the benefits, the fact that it will cover people who work in DC but live in Maryland and Virginia, and the cost to set it up. She pledged to work with the council to “overcome” these issues.

Businesses will pay a slight 0.62 percent increase in payroll taxes to pay into the fund. Then employees can earn up to 90 percent of their regular salary, capped at $1,000 a week, when they take time off. The length of the leave depends on what a worker needs it for: eight weeks for the arrival of a new child, six weeks to care for a sick family member, and two weeks of leave to tend to a personal illness. It will eventually cover about 530,000 workers.

Those benefits are a good deal more generous than what’s been enacted in the four other states that guarantee paid family leave. New York will eventually guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, but workers will get just two-thirds of their pay up to a cap of about $870 a week. California and New Jersey ensure only six weeks with even lower benefit caps, while Rhode Island guarantees four.

The amount of money workers can expect while on leave matters: it’s harder for low-paid workers to take lengthy breaks from work if they can’t expect full paychecks during that time. Yet they’re the ones who need guaranteed paid leave the most. Just 12 percent of Americans get the benefit from their employers, and the less someone makes, the less likely he is to get it.

Some DC lawmakers had originally aimed for 16 weeks of paid leave. Other places are pushing further: Washington State lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would guarantee six months of paid family leave with a $1,000 weekly cap that would be increased every year as average weekly wages rose. The length of leave also matters, particularly for health outcomes: Anything short of six months is likely to miss out on the benefits for mothers and infants that have been found in scientific research.

Most Americans, though, can only expect to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off for a new child or serious illness, and even that guarantee leaves out about 40 percent of the workforce. Virtually every other country, on the other hand, guarantees some form of maternity leave and most developed countries include fathers as well.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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