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McFeely: Paid family leave something Sen. Heitkamp can sink her teeth into

FARGO -- The wailing and gnashing of teeth, and maybe even the wringing of hands, over paid family leave legislation is as predictable as the annual pomposity known as the Super Bowl. Snoop Dogg crashed a press event for the Denver Broncos this w...

FARGO -- The wailing and gnashing of teeth, and maybe even the wringing of hands, over paid family leave legislation is as predictable as the annual pomposity known as the Super Bowl. Snoop Dogg crashed a press event for the Denver Broncos this week, asking Peyton Manning if the rapper could get a discount on a brand of pizza the quarterback endorses.“Certainly,” Manning answered, because what else is he going to say? Coming soon to a TV commercial near you, we can be sure.Almost as absurd are the talking points against paid family leave. This is the idea that all employees, regardless of income or importance, should be provided time away from work for serious health conditions of their own or those of a child, parent or spouse. It includes pregnancy, the birth of a child, childbirth recovery and adoption.
“Radical!”“Jobs killer!”“Anti-business!”“Another unworkable government mandate!”“Punitive!”“An invitation to fraud!”The list goes on. We know it goes on because these are some of the arguments we’ve already heard against paid family leave legislation in states like Minnesota, where some lawmakers tried to get the ball rolling last year. Even with bipartisan interest, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives never got a hearing because Republican leadership blocked it. Perhaps it was just coincidence, but the GOP stymied it after the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce came out strongly against the bill. We’re sure it was just coincidence.That’s why it was important this week to hear Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., announce her support for the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The bill was introduced in Congress in March 2015 and has had trouble gaining traction. Senate support thus far has come solely from liberals in places like California, New York and Minnesota. Heitkamp - that lifelong gun-totin’, coal-lovin’, EPA-hatin’ Democrat - is the first moderate to sign on. Perhaps this will embolden others to stop cowering.Many people have good jobs and great employers who provide paid time off as a benefit. But too often in North Dakota and other states, workers who don’t have paid leave time are forced to choose between their job and their family. According to Heitkamp’s office, 46 percent of North Dakota’s private-sector workforce cannot earn a single paid sick day.More startling numbers from North Dakota: 61,100 residents are currently caregivers to ailing or elderly family members and 74 percent of children live in households where both parents work.Renee Stromme of the North Dakota Women’s Network says options in such homes are often lose-lose. If going to work is the choice, a family member who needs help at home is left behind.“Or taking the day off could be a possibility, but if you don’t get paid for that day, that can cause some hardship down the line,” Stromme said. “When you’re working paycheck to paycheck and that paycheck is less next time around, it can really lead to a desperate situation.”The impact on business, despite the howling, would be minimal. The FAMILY Act would be a self-sufficient national insurance program funded by small payroll contributions. Employees and employers would pay about $1.50 per week for a typical worker.The chances of it passing? In this age of Obamacare, probably not very good. Maybe less. There’s no doubt the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various conservative think-tanks will push back with the usual ominous rhetoric.But here’s a fact those in opposition to such progressive legislation cannot deny: It is 2016.It ain’t 1916. Or 1936. Or 1956. Or 1976.The dynamics of families and the workforce have been so upended from those days. Ward Cleaver isn’t walking out the front door at 7:30 each morning while June stays home to look after the three kids. Grandpa and Grandma don’t live in a faraway town, or in an “old-folks home” a couple of miles away.Now June Cleaver is working just as many hours as Ward. The grandparents, who are living longer than they did in the 1950s, have an apartment across town and need help taking their meds every day. Once in awhile, they need somebody to stay with them. And one of the kids and his wife live at home with Ward and June because a grandchild has a medical condition and needs constant care, but the kid and his wife still need to work.Got that? It’s not “Leave It To Beaver” anymore. It’s more like “Modern Family,” but without all the laughs.It’s good to see Sen. Heitkamp support this. She needed an issue other than guns or the EPA to sink her teeth into.Now if Snoop Dogg and Peyton Manning would want to jump on board, it would make her job easier.McFeely is a columnist and radio talk show host for Forum News Service. Email him at mmcfeely@wday.com.FARGO -- The wailing and gnashing of teeth, and maybe even the wringing of hands, over paid family leave legislation is as predictable as the annual pomposity known as the Super Bowl. Snoop Dogg crashed a press event for the Denver Broncos this week, asking Peyton Manning if the rapper could get a discount on a brand of pizza the quarterback endorses.“Certainly,” Manning answered, because what else is he going to say? Coming soon to a TV commercial near you, we can be sure.Almost as absurd are the talking points against paid family leave. This is the idea that all employees, regardless of income or importance, should be provided time away from work for serious health conditions of their own or those of a child, parent or spouse. It includes pregnancy, the birth of a child, childbirth recovery and adoption.
“Radical!”“Jobs killer!”“Anti-business!”“Another unworkable government mandate!”“Punitive!”“An invitation to fraud!”The list goes on. We know it goes on because these are some of the arguments we’ve already heard against paid family leave legislation in states like Minnesota, where some lawmakers tried to get the ball rolling last year. Even with bipartisan interest, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives never got a hearing because Republican leadership blocked it. Perhaps it was just coincidence, but the GOP stymied it after the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce came out strongly against the bill. We’re sure it was just coincidence.That’s why it was important this week to hear Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., announce her support for the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The bill was introduced in Congress in March 2015 and has had trouble gaining traction. Senate support thus far has come solely from liberals in places like California, New York and Minnesota. Heitkamp - that lifelong gun-totin’, coal-lovin’, EPA-hatin’ Democrat - is the first moderate to sign on. Perhaps this will embolden others to stop cowering.Many people have good jobs and great employers who provide paid time off as a benefit. But too often in North Dakota and other states, workers who don’t have paid leave time are forced to choose between their job and their family. According to Heitkamp’s office, 46 percent of North Dakota’s private-sector workforce cannot earn a single paid sick day.More startling numbers from North Dakota: 61,100 residents are currently caregivers to ailing or elderly family members and 74 percent of children live in households where both parents work.Renee Stromme of the North Dakota Women’s Network says options in such homes are often lose-lose. If going to work is the choice, a family member who needs help at home is left behind.“Or taking the day off could be a possibility, but if you don’t get paid for that day, that can cause some hardship down the line,” Stromme said. “When you’re working paycheck to paycheck and that paycheck is less next time around, it can really lead to a desperate situation.”The impact on business, despite the howling, would be minimal. The FAMILY Act would be a self-sufficient national insurance program funded by small payroll contributions. Employees and employers would pay about $1.50 per week for a typical worker.The chances of it passing? In this age of Obamacare, probably not very good. Maybe less. There’s no doubt the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various conservative think-tanks will push back with the usual ominous rhetoric.But here’s a fact those in opposition to such progressive legislation cannot deny: It is 2016.It ain’t 1916. Or 1936. Or 1956. Or 1976.The dynamics of families and the workforce have been so upended from those days. Ward Cleaver isn’t walking out the front door at 7:30 each morning while June stays home to look after the three kids. Grandpa and Grandma don’t live in a faraway town, or in an “old-folks home” a couple of miles away.Now June Cleaver is working just as many hours as Ward. The grandparents, who are living longer than they did in the 1950s, have an apartment across town and need help taking their meds every day. Once in awhile, they need somebody to stay with them. And one of the kids and his wife live at home with Ward and June because a grandchild has a medical condition and needs constant care, but the kid and his wife still need to work.Got that? It’s not “Leave It To Beaver” anymore. It’s more like “Modern Family,” but without all the laughs.It’s good to see Sen. Heitkamp support this. She needed an issue other than guns or the EPA to sink her teeth into.Now if Snoop Dogg and Peyton Manning would want to jump on board, it would make her job easier.McFeely is a columnist and radio talk show host for Forum News Service. Email him at mmcfeely@wday.com.

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMPNORTH DAKOTA
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