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Milwaukee Alder Floats Proposal to Expand Paid Parental Leave

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021   

MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Like most of the nation, Wisconsin does not have a statewide paid parental leave policy, but in Milwaukee, a three-month paid parental leave policy is being proposed for city government employees.

The City of Milwaukee does not currently offer paid parental leave for its workers.

Marina Dimitrijevic, a Milwaukee alder currently running for mayor, said if adopted, her proposal would provide long-term benefits for children.

"When they're at home, the babies with their family members, we know breastfeeding rates increase, infant mortality can decrease, the bonding increases, and it's the best start possible," Dimitrijevic outlined.

The proposal comes as federal lawmakers debate a similar measure in the Build Back Better framework. In recent weeks, the provision has been slashed from three months of paid leave to one.

A 2018 report from the Partnership for Women and Families found a national paid parental-leave policy of three months would result in at least 600 fewer infant deaths annually.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, only nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted statewide parental-leave policies.

Dimitrijevic pointed out her proposal could make Milwaukee's one of the most generous such programs in Wisconsin.

"We know there's employee and labor shortages across the nation, "Dimitrijevic observed. "I think this will make a great place for talent and recruitment, and diversity and inclusion."

Jennifer Morales, network learning accelerator for Family Values at Work, said activists have been pushing to expand paid parental leave in the state for decades. She noted Wisconsin was a leader in establishing unpaid parental leave in the 1990s.

"Families need this," Morales contended. "We need this for our health, we need this for our economic stability and to end poverty, and so many great benefits for families."

The three-month proposal was introduced to Milwaukee's City Council last month. It is making its way through the committee process, and is expected to be before the city's Finance Committee in January.


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