President Joe Biden Calls for Paid Family Leave

President Biden made his most public commitment to passing America’s first ever national paid family leave program this Thursday, at a White House event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Joined on stage by Vice President Kamala Harris, and former President Bill Clinton, President Biden said: “94 percent of our lowest wage workers, mostly women and workers of color, have no paid family leave at all. I remain committed to changing that by passing a national program of paid leave for all.”

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 02: (L-R) U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton walk into the East Room for an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act at the White House on February 02, 2023 in Washington, DC. Some Democrats in Congress are calling on Biden to expand access to the FMLA by, in part, including a national 12-week paid family leave system as part of his proposed federal budget. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“It’s about being a country where women and all people can both work and raise a family,” he said. “How can we compete in a global economy of millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t join the workforce?”

His remarks, greeted by loud cheers from those in the audience, followed speeches by Vice President Harris and former President Clinton who also called for significant action and the implementation of paid leave. 

Clinton, whose administration passed the Family and Medical Leave act—which guarantees workers job protection for up to 12 weeks to take time off to care for a newborn, adopted child or seriously ill family members—acknowledged that while the legislation was groundbreaking at the time, “there’s still a lot of problems that cannot be solved without some form of paid leave.”

In order to spark action, “we need more stories,” he declared. “Not process. Stories.” Stories which Glamour is committed to telling, through our landmark paid leave project. 

And Harris, who during her speech drew on her own experience of taking paid time off to care for her sick mother, said: “Women are 40 percent more likely to need family and medical leave, because they are more likely to take on caregiving responsibilities. Over the past half century, women’s workforce participation has increased by 30 percent. That change alone has strengthened our economy by over $2 trillion dollars. Let us continue to fight to build on the Family and Medical Leave Act so that everyone can take paid family leave.”

The promise is a significant policy commitment ahead of the President’s State of the Union address, and it follows the reintroduction of the FAMILY act (Representative DeLauro and Senator Gillibrand’s co-authored paid leave bill) yesterday, but it still faces an uphill battle in Congress. 

Paid family leave was removed from the ultimately doomed Build Back Better bill in November 2021, after opposition from Democrat Senator Joe Manchin. And with the GOP controlling the House, its passage is far from assured. 

Karina Garcia, whose story Glamour followed, had to return to work six days after giving birth. She is pictured here holding her newborn daughter at home in New York.

Courtesy of Karina Garcia

But despite the challenges Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, told Glamour: “The President and Vice President’s renewed commitment and actions today are monumental. We look forward to working alongside side them and winning paid leave in this country.”

In order to show the catastrophic impact of the lack of paid leave on women and families, Glamour followed eight women with varying access through the first 28 days postpartum. Two of the women whose journeys Glamour documented were forced to go back to work within two weeks of giving birth, with two of the others forced to eat into their savings or go into credit card debt to cover bills.  

There couldn’t be a more urgent time to deliver what the country needs—paid leave for all. So join Glamour in calling on the government—and your local representatives and senators—to #passpaidleave.

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