Sen. Chuck Schumer said federal paid family leave could get final approval...

Sen. Chuck Schumer said federal paid family leave could get final approval this week. Credit: Charles Eckert

Congressional lawmakers are close to approving a defense bill that will make more than 15,000 federal employees on Long Island eligible for paid parental leave, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Sunday.

Democratic and Republican negotiators tentatively approved a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday that will secure 12 weeks of paid family leave, the Senate minority leader said during a news conference at his Manhattan offices. Under current law, federal employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. 

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he expects the family provision to receive final approval this week. 

“The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have paid parental leave,” Schumer said. “It’s high time we caught up.”

Schumer said the move by the federal government, the nation’s largest employer, will pressure private companies to offer a similar leave to the parents of newborn, adopted or ill children. 

“The federal government offering 12 weeks to its millions of employees across our nation and here in New York is a step in the right direction,” Schumer said. 

The senator said the provision will offer paid family leave to 114,000 federal employees in New York, including 15,679 on Long Island and 48,193 in New York City.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also applauded the measure.

"Paid family and medical leave is an idea whose time has come, and I will not stop fighting until every American worker has access to a real paid leave plan that’s comprehensive, affordable, gender-neutral, and covers all of life’s unexpected medical events,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Also on Sunday, Schumer called on the Federal Aviation Administration to hand over the results of a study on airline seat leg room and safety that was due in October. 

Schumer forced the agency to prepare a study on airline leg room and safety in 2018, the results of that study are not only late, Schumer said, but he also believes the research already conducted is flawed. 

“The airlines are shoving people into these airplanes like a can of sardines,” Schumer said. 

Average leg room on airlines has shrunk from 25 inches to 21 inches in recent years, Schumer said, while seat width has shrunk from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. Seat pitch had declined from 35 inches to as little as 28, the senator said.

Schumer said the research already conducted by the FAA has not included how children, pets and the disabled would impact the time needed to evacuate a plane in an emergency. 

“The only thing worse than the little-by-little shrinking of airplane seats is the apparent shrinking of the study to help combat them in the first place,” Schumer said. 

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