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AFSCME Applauds Major Win on Paid Leave for Federal Workers

After years of trying, Congress strikes deal providing paid parental leave for federal workers.
Stock photo, Getty Images.
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By Pete Levine ·

In a major victory for public service employees, Congress has struck a deal to provide paid parental leave for federal workers.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders joined other labor leaders and pro-worker members of Congress on Tuesday to celebrate a bipartisan deal on legislation that would provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave for 2.1 million federal government workers.

Currently, federal workers can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the deal, federal workers can take 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, adopted child or foster-placed child starting next fall. The leave provision was included in a defense policy bill, which the House passed Wednesday by an overwhelmingly bipartisan margin of 377-48. 

“If you serve the nation as a federal employee, you should be able to spend that time at home, without compromising your family’s economic security,” said Saunders. “There is no substitute for spending those first few weeks bonding with a new baby. … The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee some form of paid family leave. It’s time for us to catch up, to recognize that paid leave is a fundamental freedom to be enjoyed by everyone.”

While the deal represents the first major benefit expansion for federal workers since FMLA was enacted in 1993, it does not allow workers paid leave to care for other family members, like a spouse or ailing parent – something advocates had pushed for.

AFSCME will continue to advocate for a broader paid leave law for all workers.

“On paid leave, it’s time for the nation to move out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century,” Saunders noted. “Public policy needs to be aligned with the realities facing working families in 2019. To make ends meet, most households need two incomes, and they can’t afford to lose one of them during those times when family has to come first.”

Access to paid leave helps workers, families and even businesses in crucial ways. Healthier kids, more robust participation in the labor force, improved financial security and higher productivity are just a few of the many benefits associated with paid leave policies. 

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