Earlier this year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand reintroduced her pet bill: the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks paid leave at at least two-thirds pay. And on Tuesday, at the Center for American Progress’s Ideas Conference, she detailed the pieces of that bill — and put forward a proposal to get it passed.
“I would like to challenge the president to join us in fighting for a national paid-leave policy,” she began. “It’s not just a women’s issue. It is a middle-class economic issue that creates growth and rewards work.”
A real paid-leave plan, she said, is “not just about maternity leave” or “just about babies,” but is “gender-neutral — it has to cover husbands who want to care for their wives when they’re sick, [or] sons who want to care for a dying parent.” She added that the plan (which conveniently sounds a lot like her bill) should be affordable for businesses — even small ones — and should be a “universal earned benefit” for American workers, meaning everyone participates.
All of which was a nice refresher. But then, she suggested that if Americans want to pass such a bill, they should build on the momentum of movements like the Women’s March on Washington.
“We’ve been stuck in a Mad Men era where our policies do not reflect the face of the workforce,” she said. “But something’s happening in America that I’ve never seen in my lifetime.” The Women’s March, she said, “was a moment in our history when people believed that their voice actually mattered.” A national leave plan, she said, requires the same kind of motivation: “We are only going to pass it if every single one of you stands up and fights for it. And if we aren’t willing to fight for it, it’ll never happen.”
Despite appearing alongside other 2020 hopefuls on Tuesday, Gillibrand has ruled out the possibility of making a presidential run in four years. Instead, she hopes to be reelected as a senator for New York, where she’ll likely keep pushing for a paid-leave policy that’s far removed from Ivanka Trump’s.