Tag Archives: Labor

Double Booked: Supporting Families Through Paid Leave

By Abby Fisher

January 20, 1993—for most people the day Bill Clinton became president-for me, the day I became a mom. My husband and I met our son as President Clinton gave his inaugural address. We are adoptive parents. My children are my children, but I was never pregnant with them and did not meet them in a delivery room. When my son was born, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was but a gleam in Bill Clinton’s eye, so I took an unpaid leave from my post-doctoral fellowship.  My husband was fortunate enough to get paternity leave, so he was able to stay home with pay for a month, and we stayed home with Jamie for the time required by the adoption agency.

Four years later, my daughter arrived. Now FMLA was the law of the land, and I worked for an employer large enough that it mattered. And my employer was generous; not only was I entitled to the 12 week leave required by law, but I was to be paid for 4 of those weeks! Great!

Then I noticed a disparity.  My colleagues who bore their children also got 12 weeks of leave, and all of it was paid.  They got the same 4-week family leave I did, but they also got 8 weeks of paid disability. Now don’t get me wrong; I am all for paid maternity leave, but this seemed unfair.  It seems that the law requires that pregnancy be covered like any other “disability.” Okay I understand, but why, I asked, are women disabled for exactly the same amount of time no matter what?  Do you mean to tell me that someone who delivers with no complications is disabled for exactly the same amount of time as someone who has a C-section with every complication?! And what about those women who return to work in less than 12 weeks?  Are they miraculously less “disabled” than their colleagues?

No, I was told, but these women need time to bond with their babies. Now I was really mad. I need time to bond with my baby too! And I have to do it without pay! Now I wasn’t going to go hungry from lack of my paycheck, but the whole thing seemed so unfair. Not only would I not be paid for 2 months, but also my 401K and Social Security contributions would stop, leaving me with less money in my retirement kitty. All because I did not (and by the way, could not) bear my child.

In the end, I wrote to my congressman and senators, to no avail, but my boss, an adoptive parent himself, reported that I was “working from home” for the last 8 weeks of my leave, and I was paid.  Too many others, however, are not as fortunate.

Now in no way do I mean to argue that women who bear their children should not get paid leave.  Quite the opposite.  As the family structures in our society get more varied, I cannot imagine this isn’t going to be more and more of an issue.  Why should it matter how our children arrive in our families?  We should be looking at paid leave, all of us, to bond with our new children and to adjust to our new family lives. It is time that FMLA gets an update, so that it will give all of us who need it time off WITH PAY.

Abby Fisher is Women of Reform Judaism’s Vice President of Advocacy and Marketing & Communications. She is also a member of Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, MA.

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

Double Booked: It’s Equal Pay Day, Let’s Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

A version of this post originally appeared on the RACblog on March 19, 2014.

Pay equity for women is a critical social justice issue of today largely because it has serious implications for the economic security of women and families across our nation. Read more about the gender wage gap: Fact sheet from the American Association of University Women.

It is also a critical social justice issue, however, because in a society such as ours that places great emphasis on work and the role of employment in our lives and livelihood, paying women less than their male counterparts signals that work done by women is worth less and that women are worth less.

Read more…

Senators with Workers with signs reading "we need work now" and "1.5 million reasons to extend EUC"

Unemployment Insurance Passes Senate

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate passed an extension of unemployment insurance, ending four months of debate on the issue in the chamber. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released a statement in response to the bill’s passage, stating in part:

“After tireless efforts over the last four months from those on both sides of the aisle, we are pleased to see an extension of unemployment benefits pass the Senate. Over two million newly jobless Americans have struggled for months without these vital benefits and the program cannot be restarted soon enough for these vulnerable families. Read more…

Leibel Fein family

Double Booked: Beyond the Everyday Challenges

By Leonard Fein

I don’t  pretend to know much about working families, not from a personal perspective.  I live alone, and my work consists mainly of writing, which is by and large not what’s intended by the term “working.”  But I’m afraid I do have intimate insight into the perils that may befall so-called “working  families,” this from close observation of Jessie (my daughter) and Rob (my son-in-law) and the toll that an eight-year old with a genetic mutation that is neither treatable (except, to a limited degree, through intubation) nor curable.  Dalia has a condition known as “MERRF,” so rare it happens in just one out of every four hundred thousand births.  She’s an utterly delightful child — but tires very, very easily.  Her condition is degenerative, and we have witnessed her deterioration in recent months.  One poignant example among many: She can no longer walk, nor manage the stairs to her bedroom on the 2nd floor.

The costs — financial (special equipment), emotional, hopes raised and ruined, are more than substantial.  They are debilitating.

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Double Booked: Expanding the Meaning of Choice

By Ilyse Hogue

This article is cross-posted with Zeek, a catalyst for conversations about the Jewish tomorrow.

I remember clearly the day that my then-boyfriend now-husband and I implemented our “no conference calls on road trips” rule. We’re often on the road between our home in DC and New York or to my mother-in-law’s home on the Delaware coast. While this might seem like an obvious rule to some in order to maximize quality time together, our concerns were much more mundane. If we were both on the phone at the same time, we couldn’t hear. And we couldn’t agree on whose call was more important, so we decided no one could be on the phone. Yes, our relationship had come to closely approximate a pair of five year olds who could not share a toy.

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My Grandmother and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

By Leslie Levin 

Every year on March 25, my two siblings, three cousins and I think about our paternal grandmother, Gussie. We feel very fortunate that she was sick with influenza on March 25, 1911 when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurred. If she had not been sick at home we all would not exist today.

My grandmother Gelli Kurci-Gussie Kurtz Baker was a seamstress back in her small town of Chernovitz, Rumania. Her mother was a “white seamstress” in Europe. She had her own shop with 5 sewing machines and worked on trousseaus, underwear and linens. Read more…

Senate hearing room, Senators

No Kidding: Senate Committee Hearing on Paycheck Fairness

On Tuesday, April Fools Day, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing – chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) – on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84). But pay discrimination is no laughing matter!

The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) would ameliorate the unbelievable reality that women in this country continue to make 77 cents on every dollar their male counterpart makes—and that figure hasn’t budged in over a decade! PFA would build on laws that are already on the books: the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although these laws are important and significant improvements, not only just for women, pay discrimination continues, and we need legislation that responds to the reality that millions of women face around the country.

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Line of unemployed people on the sidewalk

Take Action: Unemployment Insurance Vote Tomorrow

Over 2 million jobless Americans have struggled without vital federal unemployment benefits since they expired on January 1st and a deal to extend them has fallen apart multiple times. The Senate attempted to pass an extension in early February, but since the failure of that extension, public talks of a compromise have been minimal. But last week news broke of a compromise able to pass the Senate and the Senate is poised to finally pass a retroactive extension of unemployment insurance tomorrow. Last week, a procedural vote on the bipartisan bill passed 65-34 and we expect the vote tomorrow to breakdown across similar lines. Read more…