Living wages. Flexible workplaces. Generous leaves and job protections. These are just some of the policy issues being discussed in this week’s White House Summit on Working Families. The summit, which featured both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as advocacy groups and even a few celebrities, was seen as a chance to better highlight the issues that have today’s families struggling economically as they balance work and family,sfbay or, if you are a member of the GOP, as a way of pandering for votes prior to the 2014 midterm elections.
If promoting policies that make it easier to raise a family is pandering for a vote, well, maybe the Republican party should consider doing some pandering of their own. The ideas promoted at the summit weren’t splashy or overly expansive, but basic, simple steps to make sure that more people give birth, house and feed their children.
“Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth,” said President Obama, according to The Business Insider. “That’s a pretty low bar. You would think that we would be able to take care of” that.
If being forced to take an unpaid day off just to give birth seems unreasonable, well then, the vast majority of the agenda items must seem like pure luxury versus some pretty standard basic rights. Advocates urge continuing Medicaid expansion to ensure all families have access to reasonable, affordable basic health care. They are urging that pregnancy discrimination be ended, so that more pregnant workers can continue to both work and keep safe while pregnant, getting reasonable accommodations like weight limits in lifting or even necessary bathroom breaks.
Also discussed were the need for a living wage for families and a better discussion of how much impact the expense of childcare has on the earning potential for today’s parents. Wages, healthcare and childcare all play together to limit what a parent can do for his or her family and their overall health and success.
“Every single day, there are conversations around the kitchen table where people are trying to figure out, this child care is costing so much, I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to make our mortgage at the end of the month,” President Obama said to Kate Bolduan at CNN. “There are folks who are saying, ‘Little Johnny is sick, but if I don’t show up at my job, because I don’t have paid family leave, we’re not going to be able to pay the electricity bill.’”
The President dismissed the idea that these are “women’s issue” topics, noting that strong protections for families don’t just help mothers but all parents, and all children, and create a stronger society as well. “Anything that makes life harder for women, makes life harder for families, and makes life harder for children.” He also announced the administration will begin a number of new efforts to focus on flexible workplaces and strengthening pregnancy discrimination laws, as well as funding child care programs specifically for those undergoing job training.
Although the administration can work on policies to address federal workplaces, getting real reforms that will help families across the country still seem doomed for as long as the Republican party controls Congress. Already they have filibustered equal pay bills and even the Violence Against Women Act, as well as tried to kill the Affordable Care Act which, among other things, mandates all insurance plans must cover maternity care. Trying to get a national law to promote child care credits or paid family leave would be simply impossible
And that, frankly, is a shame. The GOP presents itself as the party of family values, yet blocks any effort made to make it easier to raise that family. It’s time for them to step up and join the Democrats and the White House and promote real laws that make all families stronger, not just the richest families in the nation.
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