By Robert Gavin Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday called for a nationwide law to create paid family and medical leave, saying working parents too often are forced to choose between their jobs and families.
"It happens every single day -- and more often than not it's women who leave the workforce to care for that family member," Gillibrand said at City Hall, where she was joined by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
Gillibrand said the existing Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides unpaid leave, is used by only about half of those employees eligible for it because they can't afford to take the time off.
Gillibrand said her proposed law would be funded by "small contributions" by employers and employees that would not add to the federal budget. The plan would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits.
"This is an earned benefit, one that makes paid leave available to every worker in America no matter how big the company you work for is, whether you are part-time or whether you are full-time," she said. "And it costs less than a cup of coffee a week."
Sheila Woodcock, a mother from Saratoga County who spoke at the event, said she needed to work three part-time jobs as her late 13-year-old son, Mark suffered from leukemia.
"I didn't get the time to spend with him that I really deserved to spend with him and be with him while he was battling this illness," she said. "I just want to make sure that other parents don't have to make the decisions that I had to make. I had to bring home a paycheck, but had to be with my son. And I have another child, too. Where do I go? I have 24 hours in a day."
Sheehan said when her adopted son was born, she was fortunate to have a boss who understood her situation and allowed her paid leave.
"I wouldn't be standing here today if I had a different boss," the mayor said, saying she backs the law wholeheartedly.
The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat.