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Federal Infrastructure Plan Likely to Include Paid Leave

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OECD data show the United States is one of the only industrialized countries that does not mandate paid parental leave. (Jessica Shamout)
OECD data show the United States is one of the only industrialized countries that does not mandate paid parental leave. (Jessica Shamout)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
March 31, 2021

CARSON CITY, Nev. - President Joe Biden is set to release his new infrastructure proposal today in Pittsburgh - and within a few weeks, its second half is expected to include plans for a permanent, national paid-leave program.

Advocates of paid leave say all workers should be able to take paid time off for an extended illness, and to welcome a new child to the family or take care of an ill family member. Dawn Huckelbridge, director of the Paid Leave for All campaign, said COVID-19 brought this issue to the fore.

"When the COVID-19 pandemic began, one of the first things Congress did was pass a temporary, emergency paid-leave program," she said, "which underscores the economic and public-health consequences of not having a national policy in place."

Opponents in the business community have said a paid-leave program would further weaken companies that already are struggling during the pandemic. Only 10 states currently mandate state leave, and Nevada isn't one of them.

Tina Tchen, chief executive of the nonprofit Time's Up, said the current state-based programs are riddled with loopholes that leave out millions of workers.

"Eighty percent of private-sector workers still do not have access to paid leave, and those who do tend to be in white-collar jobs," she said, "and strikingly, only 8% of workers who are in the bottom wage quartile have access to paid leave."

In recent years, Silver State lawmakers raised the minimum wage and required large employers to offer paid sick days despite opposition from the mining, gaming and retail industries.

Leo Murrieta, executive director of the nonprofit Make the Road Nevada, said companies will prosper by taking care of their workers.

"It increases productivity, it increases longevity for employees," he said. "So, these types of laws are really good for businesses. The fact that they don't like to pay for it is beside the point."

Jocelyn Frye. senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said women of color in particular would benefit from a national paid-leave policy.

"We have to get past this notion that paid family leave, work-family policies, are extra 'perks'," she said. "These are really fundamental, core benefits that are really essential to workers."

Disclosure: Paid Leave For All contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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