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Commissioner Audrey Edmonson Spearheads Push For Paid Medical Leave in Miami-Dade County Commission

January 23, 2014

Miami, Florida – Yesterday the Miami-Dade County Commission – the 8th largest county in the country – unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson (District 3) that urged Congress to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act of 2013 (FAMILY Act).

The FAMILY Act was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 12, 2013. The bill would create a social insurance fund to allow people to receive a portion of their pay when they need time away from their jobs for family or medical reasons – resulting in significant benefits for their families, businesses and our economy. Specifically, the bill would provide workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a personal serious illness, an illness of a child, parent or spouse and the birth or adoption of a child, among others. Workers and employers would each contribute a very small portion of their wages to this insurance program; the self-sustaining fund would mean workers could receive up to 66 percent of their wages while on leave.

“People want to be good parents to their children and good children to their parents, and they also want to have a job and succeed at it,” said Kit Rafferty, Executive Director, South Florida Voices for Working Families. “If you take one away from the other, families, businesses and the economy pay the price. For most people, losing pay to meet personal or family health needs means struggling to afford even the most basic necessities, which hurts the businesses that depend on revenue from purchases and the growth of our economy.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been a tremendous help to families, but too many people today cannot afford to take unpaid leave. FMLA leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford. Currently only 11 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability programs. That means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents, are forced to choose between what is best for them and their families and income they need to cover basic expenses.

In 2002, California became the first state to pass a Paid Family Leave Program (PFL), followed in 2009 by New Jersey. The programs have been enormously successful with 1.4 million claims filed in California and 100,000 filed in New Jersey since their implementation, and high levels of support among business owner and workers. Now Rhode Island has joined them with a precedent-setting law that protects the jobs of all workers who need to use the fund. In Washington State, a paid leave program awaits funding. New York State is the next state likely to pass a family leave insurance program. Connecticut and several other states are laying the groundwork for similar legislation.

The Miami-Dade County Commission was the first county in the country to pass a Family Medical Leave Act policy prior to the 1993 federal bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

“I am honored to be part of an institution that places the needs of people, especially their employees first,” said Audrey Edmonson, Miami-Dade County Commissioner (District 3). “As a public servant in a local government that was the first in this nation to create policy that ensures the support of family in times of medical need, it gives me a great sense of real accomplishment. Miami-Dade County will continue to be forward thinking on behalf of its residents and employees and encourages members of Congress to pass laws that allow working families the protections needed by them during tenuous times.”

The Miami-Dade County Commission for Women also supports the FAMILY Act because of its great value for women and children in our community. This is smart public policy that will ultimately lead to a more stable and productive workforce. It would also demonstrate that the United States backs up the ‘family friendly’ rhetoric with positive concrete action,” said Michelle Dunaj Lucking, Esq., Chair of the Miami-Dade Commission for Women.

There is also broad support among the business community for paid family and medical leave programs because businesses understand it’s good for their bottom line. California employers report that the program has had a neutral or positive effect on employee productivity, profitability and turnover, and most employers coordinate their own benefits with the state’s PFL program. A 2011 study of California’s FMLI program estimated that it would save employers $89 million a year.  A recent Rutgers study shows that New Jersey’s FMLI program has saved businesses money by improving employee retention, decreasing turnover costs and improving productivity.

The Miami-Dade County Commission resolution is extremely timely given the recent release of the Shriver Report “A Women’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” – a study conducted by Maria Shiver in partnership with the Center for American Progress. The study is a series of conversations about women and economic security and shows that millions of women are barely scraping by despite working hard as breadwinners and caregivers. Of all of its recommendations, the report identifies paid leave as the number one policy women need to improve their economic stability. According to the report, “an overwhelming 96% of single moms in our poll say paid leave is the workplace policy that would help them most.”

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The Miami-Dade Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces is a member of Family Values@Work, a network of 21 state coalitions working to pass policies that value families at work like affordable family leave. The Miami-Dade Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, 58 organizations strong, includes community groups, labor unions, religious leaders and worker rights’ organizations.

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