Start A Petition

Cry Wolf: Why the Right Was Wrong About the Family Medical Leave Act

Health & Wellness  (tags: children, ethics, family, dishonesty, freedoms, GoodNews, government, health, law, rights, safety, society, women, politics, lies, money, marketing, dishonesty, corporate, business, economy, americans, abuse, babies, children, prevention, research, risks )

- 1951 days ago -
Before the law finally passed, business lobbies including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business had successfully defeated family leave bills in Congress for almost a decade. They predicted the worst, calling it a job

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


JL A (281)
Monday February 18, 2013, 8:56 am
PR Watch
Published on PR Watch (

Cry Wolf: Why the Right Was Wrong About the Family Medical Leave Act
by PRW Staff [1] February 7, 2013 - 7:36am

-- by Donald Cohen, Cry Wolf Project [4]

In February 2005, Patti Phillips sat by her daughter's bedside during the weeks before Stephanie Phillips died of bone cancer. Patti was able to be at her daughter's side the day she died because of the federal law that allows millions of Americans to take family leave without risking their jobs. "You want to be there with your child.... and you don't want to worry about your job," said Phillips, 49, an inventory specialist at Coca-Cola in Atlanta. "The law gives you peace of mind."

This week will mark twenty years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law by the newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton on February 5, 1993 after years of bitter opposition by the Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies. Clinton said that it was time for employers to make basic commitments to American workers so that during those critical times when we must put our family's health first, we shouldn't have to give up our livelihood -- and job -- to do so. He claimed that, "we all bear the cost when workers are forced to choose between keeping their jobs and meeting their personal and family obligations." The new law, he said, would mean that "American workers will no longer have to choose between the job they need and the family they love."

The FMLA assigned a simple responsibility to businesses with more than fifty employees: give workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a new baby or ailing family member and let them return to their job. Unfortunately, since it didn't provide paid leave to workers, millions who were eligible weren't able to take advantage of the new law because they couldn't afford the loss of income.

It was, though, a hard-fought and vitally important first step. For millions of workers it has been, and continues to be, a godsend. Workers who used family leave returned to their old jobs and picked up where they left off in skill, earnings and experience; better off economically and with a stronger resume. They faced fewer bankruptcies and relied less on public assistance programs.

Before the law finally passed, business lobbies including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business had successfully defeated family leave bills in Congress for almost a decade. They predicted the worst, calling it a job killer, an assault on freedom, and an unnecessary government intrusion since businesses know what's best for their workers.

Virginia Lamp (later to become Virginia Thomas after marrying Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) of the Chamber of Commerce called it a "dangerous precedent." Chamber president, Richard Lesher, argued that "most people don't want the federal government to be their personnel administrators." John Sloane Jr., president of the National Federation of Independent Business called family leave benefits "the greatest threats to small business in America." Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC) described it as "nothing short of Europeanization -- a polite term for socialism."

Future Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-OH) complained that the legislation would "be the demise of some [businesses]." "And as that occurs," he continued "the light of freedom will grow dimmer."

But by 1990 the new reality of families with two working parents and millions of single parent households produced enough pressure on Republicans that the FMLA passed with bi-partisan support. Nineteen Senate and 40 House Republicans voted yes.

Two states have already taken the extra step to create paid family leave laws so workers don't have to choose between getting paid and taking family medical leave.

In 2002, California was the first state to create a paid family leave insurance program.

The Chamber of Commerce lobbied vigorously to kill the bill but was unable to stop it. Chamber President Allan Zaremberg described the leave law as a coming disaster for business. "We're opposed to a lot of bills, but this is one of the worst," claimed Zaremberg. A lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business predicted "If it becomes law, it will be the biggest financial burden for small businesses in decades."

Now after ten years and 1.4 million leave claims paid, an extensive survey of employers and employees by sociologist Ruth Milkman and economist Eileen Applebaum found that the California law didn't turn out to be the costly "job killer" that business lobbies warned about. In fact, the survey found the leave law actually helped employers with reduced turnover and increased employee loyalty while helping families meet the challenges of working and caring for their children. And research clearly shows that babies do better when their parents can stay home with them for their first few months.

New Jersey passed a paid family leave law in 2008 that offered six weeks off for employees to care for a sick child or parent at two-thirds salary, paid for by a payroll tax. Business lobbies claimed that it would destroy businesses and send them fleeing to fleeing to other nearby states. Employees, they claimed, would abuse the system.

Some claimed it was un-American. Steven Lonegan, then-mayor of Bogota, NJ and executive director of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity called it a "... socialist diktat takes feel-good politics to a new level. The basic argument for this socialist propaganda is the necessity for Big Brother to subsidize an army of breastfeeding single mothers."

As it turns out, New Jersey's paid family leave has been working just fine. 100,000 working people -- the vast majority women -- have taken advantage of the program in the last three years. Two years after the program began the leave fund had a surplus causing a reduction in the payroll tax. And employers found real benefits too. Caliper Corporation CEO Herb Greenberg called it a "win-win situation" that benefited his workers and his business, noting that 20 of his 22 employees who have taken family leave have returned to work for him.

Despite the Chamber's consistent opposition, the Family and Medical Leave Act is a popular law that even conservative Republicans lawmakers have a hard time opposing. In 2008, the FMLA was expanded to allow family members of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans to take unpaid leave to care for them. In 2009, the law was extended to cover flight attendants who had been exempted in the 1993 law. The House of Representatives voted unanimously for the expansions.

Efforts are now underway to take important next steps to enact paid family leave policies that would allow millions more workers to afford to take time off during those critical family situations. The Chamber of Commerce will likely again claim the sky will fall. The difference is that now an overwhelming majority of Americans support the 20-year old law that's good for families, good for employers and good for the economy.

President Obama during his 2013 inaugural address proclaimed that "The commitments we make to each other--through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security--these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us," Mr. Obama said. "They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."

Paid family leave also wouldn't make us a nation of takers, but rather a nation of makers -- of family, of community, of health and ultimately of prosperity. It strengthens our families, makes us more independent and more able to lift ourselves back up after hard times. And most importantly it makes it possible for Americans to carry out the most meaningful and important of our personal responsibilities -- to care for the health of our families.

The article originally appeared in Huffington Post [5].
Center for Media and Democracy 520 University Avenue, Suite 260 Madison, Wisconsin 53703
Phone: 608-260-9713 Fax: 608-260-9714
Source URL:


Michael M (60)
Monday February 18, 2013, 9:02 am
I'm here tocry Wolf! as well:

If you haven't, please goto

and sign the petition by CBD to return wolves to protection, as they are being slaughtered and poached wherever they have been able to return.

. (0)
Monday February 18, 2013, 10:21 am
Noted. I believe it's called compassion; something a dollar doesn't feel and neither do those whose covetous avarice precludes any semblance of compassion.

Mitchell D (87)
Monday February 18, 2013, 10:49 am
The right was wrong for the same reason they are usually wrong, because they do not relate to an issue, do not think about issues rationally, but only in terms of either their fear of change, or their greed, often, probably, both. then they come up with their standard bull rationales.

JL A (281)
Monday February 18, 2013, 10:56 am
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Mitchell because you have done so within the last week.
You both give credible explanations of why the "it'll kill business" arguments have consistently bee proven wrong once implemented.

Phyllis P (237)
Monday February 18, 2013, 11:10 am
Isn't it funny we are going to hell in a handbasket (so they think), if we make companies and corporations pay a valuable employee to care for a loved one, temporarily. They make profit. Sometimes they have to suffer the burden too. It can't always be the employee.

Michael M (60)
Monday February 18, 2013, 11:36 am
Well, you know JL, that the Chamber of Commerce has turned into a nightmare in America:

There should be Horror Movies called "Chamberofcommerce Man", " The Green" (instead of The Grey), and colloquialisms like "the corporation is at your door", Business in sheep's clothing", said I crying, "chamber of commerce!"

JL A (281)
Monday February 18, 2013, 11:40 am
LOL Michael! You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Monday February 18, 2013, 11:47 am
Sounds like a very compassionate thing to do

noted thanks

Past Member (0)
Monday February 18, 2013, 11:58 am
Have done Michael M given them a piece of my mind!

JL A (281)
Monday February 18, 2013, 12:01 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last week.

Christina Carlson (17)
Monday February 18, 2013, 1:25 pm
This is extremely relevent!!! After 8 years working at a big company, I've been advised to brush up my resume and look for other opportunities because I've had to miss too much work due to sick kids. The team I support supports me and is happy with my ability to manage workload despite a series of missed days because of a vomiting virus my son has. The upper management wants me out though because of time missed - no matter what my team says. Both my husband and I have received threats against our jobs because of having to miss work when our children have been ill. We've finally decided that we both need to apply for FMLA in order to retain our job security. I thank all goodness that it exists although I hope it's enough to protect us.

Jaime Alves (52)
Monday February 18, 2013, 1:30 pm

David C (129)
Monday February 18, 2013, 2:13 pm
sorry, can't read the article because THE RIGHT IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING!

Angelika R (143)
Monday February 18, 2013, 2:19 pm
signed wolf petition days ago...and thx JL. Why don't all these self appointed "freedom protectors" just take the freedom to resign ??!!! These are such basic rights, economically justified and necessary, again-look across the water from your turtle island!

JL A (281)
Monday February 18, 2013, 2:44 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Christina because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last week.

Lindsay K (6)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 4:54 am
Each of us face times in our lives when we need some compassion, so we all need to be compassionate when we are faced with people in difficult circumstances.

Birgit W (160)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 4:43 pm

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 4:48 pm
So true Lindsay.
You are welcome Birgit

Patricia H. (440)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 3:20 am

Diana Bair (7)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 3:57 pm
Republicians care ....NOTHING for.......FREEDOM or.....OUR RIGHTS. People are humans, we need time to be with family during extreme ..ILLNESSES, But republicians could care less about...US or our FAMILIES!!!!!. THIS SHOULD BE paid leave........EVEN. AFTER ALL THINK ABOUT IT IF WE TAKE THIS TIME AND MAYBE EVEN BE...PAID....either way how will bosses and GOP. get.....RICHER. If workers take this needed time....OFF. This is or SHOULD be a BASIC HUMAN....RIGHT!!!!!. Diana

reft h (66)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 11:35 pm
thanks for the article

JL A (281)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 7:42 am
You are welcome June.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Health & Wellness

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.