Kirsten Gillibrand presses for paid family leave

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (June 4, 2013)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (June 4, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand pressed Thursday for legislation that would create a federal benefit for paid family and medical leave.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Bay Shore that the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn't require employers to grant paid leave to care for sick family members or serious health events like a child's birth.

"No mother, no worker, should have to choose between the loved one who needs their time and attention, and staying on track with their career, earning a living and providing for their family long-term," Gillibrand said at the Great South Bay YMCA.

Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act in December, although neither measure has any Republican co-sponsors.

Under the proposal, employees and employers each would pay 0.2 percent of wages into a trust administered by the Social Security Administration. Gillibrand said it would cost the average worker about $2 a week.

Workers would receive benefits equaling two-thirds of their average monthly wages, for up to 12 weeks. Benefits would be capped at $4,000 a month. The legislation largely would mirror the coverage of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to offer unpaid leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993 after nearly a decadelong fight in Congress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the law has been a burden for employers to administer, although the group is not seeking to overturn it. The Chamber did not respond to a request for comment about Gillibrand's and DeLauro's bill.

According to a survey last year by the U.S. Department of Labor, 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.Laurie Greenstein, 56 of Commack, who appeared with Gillibrand yesterday, said that when her daughter was injured in a car crash in 2011, she used up all her sick, personal and vacation days at her job with Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union. She and her husband then had to take days off without pay.

"It was a hardship for us," she said. "For those without support, it can be devastating."

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