During WAWH’s 8th Annual Wisconsin Women’s Health Advocacy Summit, state Rep. Sondy Pope and state Sen. Janis Ringhand unveiled the "Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act." WAWH was proud to work with the bill authors and many different advocacy organizations during this exciting event that provided a great window into policy advocacy in action for our Summit participants.
WAWH has worked closely with our close ally, 9to5 Wisconsin, on promoting state paid family and medical leave legislation the past two years. We were honored to be joined by many other great allies to support paid leave, including End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the YWCA Madison, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin.
Paid leave has become a prominent economic justice issue that has received much attention recently because it is widely viewed as an area where the United States is woefully behind the rest of the world -- so much so that both major presidential candidates supported some type of paid leave policies during the 2016 campaign. Sadly, the U.S. is one of only three countries that does not guarantee workers any form of paid leave.
The Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is modeled on several successful paid family and medical leave programs that have been implemented in other states, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington, D.C. These models include creating a public insurance program that provides workers with paid family or medical leave in case they need to take time off work because of their own serious health condition, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a newborn baby.
Nationally, only 12 percent of workers have paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program. As a result, workers who take needed time off often face a significant loss of income.
This burden falls disproportionately on women workers, who make up nearly half of the workforce but are still far more likely than men to care for children or other family members who are sick. Even though both the federal and Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Acts (FMLA's) do provide important protections to some workers, a significant portion of the workforce is not eligible for these protections and both FMLA's only provide for unpaid time off, which is not financially possible for many employees.
Because of these shortcomings of the state and federal FMLA's, we need the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that employees can take the time off they need to care for themselves and their families.
If you'd like to learn more about paid family and medical leave, visit WAWH's Policy Prescription page on economic security issues (you'll have to scroll down the page a bit to get to paid leave).
If you would like to speak out in favor of the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, you can click here to contact your state legislators to urge them to sponsor the bill or click here to submit a supportive letter to the editor to your local newspaper.
Once the legislation is introduced, we will create a more detailed page on our website "Policy Watch" page to provide more background information regarding the status of the bill along with other informational materials.
Sara Finger, Executive Director