Rep. Miller on House Floor: 'Extend FMLA Benefits to All Americans'

Feb 13, 2013 Issues: Labor, Worker Rights

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the committee, took to the House floor Wednesday to call for the extension of job protections in the face of medical and family issues for all Americans. As a result of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers are guaranteed job-protected leave when they need time off for family or health reasons. It gave workers the ability to balance the demands of work and family. However, only half of all workers can take advantage of the FMLA. The rest are ineligible because of their part-time status or who their employer is. Rep. Miller calls for his colleagues to extend FMLA’s benefits to all Americans, and to look for ways to guarantee workers access to paid FMLA and sick leave. 

Read the text of Rep. Miller's prepared remarks for his Special Order Speech on the Future of the FMLA below:

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Mr. Speaker, I read with interest Majority Leader Cantor’s speech last week on the majority’s latest re-launch of the House GOP.

Leader Cantor said that the House “will pursue an agenda…of health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families.” 

He went on to identify a very important problem for millions of Americans:  how to balance work and family. 

Unfortunately, that was the end of the relaunch – because, to address this problem, the Majority Leader proposed an old scheme that actually takes away workers’ right to overtime pay in exchange for employer-controlled comp time.

This scheme has been bouncing around the Big Business wish list for decades.

It’s a two-fer for big business: workers get less predictable schedules, and they earn even less pay.

Leader Cantor’s prescription for what ails working families is to administer more poison. It’s to give a working parent less control over her life with less money in her pocket.

Their plan does not give workers flexibility: Their plan is about giving corporations another way to pay workers less.

That’s not how you help working families.

If the majority party wants to be serious about healthy, prosperous, and happy American families, then they should help to create real opportunities to help families to be healthy, prosperous and happy.   

Here’s one serious way to help working families: give workers real flexibility on the job and the ability to take advantage of paid-time off.

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Back in 1993, this law was a big step forward for America. 

It guarantees workers job-protected leave when they needed time off for family or health reasons. It has been used more than 100 million times over the last 20 years.

Workers got to take time off to care for a newborn or a sick spouse or to get an operation – without fear of losing their job.

With the Family and Medical Leave Act, our country made it a priority to give workers the ability to balance the demands of work and family.

It made the healthy development of babies, healthy families, and healthy workplaces a priority.

It was a remarkable accomplishment at the time. But it was intended to be the first step, not the last.

Only half of all workers can take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The rest are ineligible because of their part-time status or who their employer is.

Half of all workers don’t have the job protections to take time off to welcome a new baby to the family. They can’t take time off to help an elderly parent without fear of losing their job.

So, here’s another serious idea to help working families:  extend FMLA protections to all workers.

And, furthermore, let’s guarantee paid leave under the law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees UNPAID job-protected leave.

Too many families simply cannot afford to miss a day or two of work.

That’s why Congress should finally deliver on paid leave for our nation’s workers.

I recently heard from Matari Jones from San Antonio, Texas.

While she said that the FMLA was a godsend when her children were born, taking unpaid time off to take care of her newborns and to heal from a complicated delivery was a significant financial struggle.

Unfortunately, Matari is not alone.

A working woman – or any worker for that matter – shouldn’t have to choose between the family members they love or the paycheck they need.

California, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Washington State, and New Jersey have taken steps towards paid FMLA or sick leave. This policy is good for families – And it is good for business.

The least paid workers in our society are also the least likely to be able to afford a day off if they are sick.

Many of these workers are behind the lunch counter or taking care of our older family members. 

If Leader Cantor and this House are truly serious about helping working families, then let’s deliver the full promise of workplace leave policies that properly value our nation’s families.

Extend FMLA’s benefits to all workers. And look at ways to guarantee workers access to paid FMLA and sick leave.

There are other steps Congress should take to help ensure that workers can share in the prosperity they are helping to create.

Let’s make sure that women are paid based on their worth by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Let’s raise the minimum wage, which will boost the economy by putting money in the pockets of millions of working people.  

So, I would say to my friend from Virginia, the Majority Leader:

If he is serious about helping working families, then join with us and let’s enact policies really put families first.