I went to the State Capital yesterday afternoon to testify at a Senate Hearing in support of the Family Leave Insurance bill. The Bill offers 6 weeks of the 12 weeks of family leave currently allowed to be paid leave. It amounts to $300 per week up to $1800 per year. Companies with more than 25 employees have to participate. Those like gDiapers with less than 25 employees can opt in. Ironically as I waited I noticed news from Australia via Twitter that the Federal Government is about to pass even more paid leave than is currently offered. The locals here must think we Australians are complete Socialists. Communists perhaps?
Only three states in the US (Washington, California & New Jersey) have such leave. Other fun facts:
Having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in the U.S. -- when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses.
In the U.S., 49% of mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave.
51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.
Only 7% of all companies in the US offer any kind of paid leave.
The U.S is one of only 4 countries that doesn't offer paid leave to new mothers -- the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
We at "g" offer paid maternity leave, onsite day care, 4 weeks paid time off, Medical, 401(k) and Chad - the killer yoga teacher every Thursday. This is the way it is in Canada and Australia. In fact in Canada the Government guarantees one year of paid maternity leave. God Bless those mad Canucks.
Testimony was heard for over 2 hours with the vast majority in support of the Bill. The Associated Oregon Industries representative (who is against it) observed that the $42 it would cost the employee each year was an outrage and would be better used to pay off student debt...Where to start with that one.
I sat next to a lobbyist as I waited to give my testimony. I looked around the room and realised that these lobbyists were everywhere. It reminded me of the movie "Thank you for smoking". And then I met with a friend, Jefferson Smith. Jefferson started the Bus Project seven years ago. The Bus Project is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to engaging young people in forward-thinking, community-focused politics.
Jefferson was recently elected to the House of Representatives. He decided we needed to go hunt down some more lobbyists to show just how many there are. In the space of 5 minutes I saw or met every interest group lobbyist imaginable including the chap who raised $10 million for big tobacco to stop a tobacco tax. Back home, a box of fags are $10. $3 goes to the manufacture and $7 goes in tax to help people stop smoking (If the $10 sticker shock is not enough) It makes sense to me . Why not here? So it seems the biggest feature of the system here are the lobbyists. And most are working for good not evil. But why have them in the first place?
All in all an eye-opening afternoon, getting up close and personal with American democracy. Below are links to news stories that ran after the testimony.