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Maternity Leave Bursts Into America’s Political Battle | International

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, on the outskirts of the Capitol in an intervention on Joe Biden’s social agenda.ALEX WONG (AFP)

The United States is the only developed country in the world where there is no national law that guarantees paid maternity (or paternity) leave. Millions of women voted for Democrats in the last election, prompted by the promise that Joe Biden would improve the dark prospects they face when deciding to become mothers or fathers, a problem that especially weighs down African-American women. However, one of Biden’s star proposals is now in jeopardy because of its high cost, of about 500,000 million dollars (about 430,000 million euros). The uncertainty has outraged a group led by activists who believe that right now, when a Democrat resides in the White House and has a majority in both houses of Congress, it is the most viable option there will be in a generation to carry out a project So.

The paid leave is part of the White House’s ambitious plan to reform the social infrastructure of the country, a project that has been stuck in Congress for weeks, and is expected to finally be voted on this week. Democrats are cutting several sections of the $ 3.5 trillion package to cut the amount by almost half, in order to convince their party’s moderates to approve it. Biden’s proposal seeks to offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, caregivers of seriously ill family members and people with a serious medical condition. The cost is expected to be financed by the new taxes on higher incomes and large companies. Currently, almost one in four mothers returns to work within two weeks after giving birth, and one in five leaves the labor market earlier than planned to care for a sick family member.

“Having three children put me in a financial hole,” explained on Friday at a ceremony outside the Capitol Daniella Knight, a woman who lives with a partner and who was forced to give up her two jobs to take care of her children, since she did not I could afford quality child care centers. “For families like mine, it is not about politics,” he added, but “about whether our leaders defend us and build something that we have needed for a long time.” In the United States, the world’s leading power, poverty affects one in seven children. This problem affects African Americans and Latinos with disproportionate rates. Many of these households fell into poverty due to a spiral of expenses associated with parenting, job loss and wage cuts.

Significant reduction

The White House has negotiated in recent days with the Democratic legislators a very important reduction of the proposal, from 500,000 to 100,000 million dollars; This would reduce maternity and sick leave from 12 to four weeks from 2024, according to anonymous sources cited by The Washington Post. “For someone who does not have a day off paid, four weeks could still be significant,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, an organization that fights for paid leave.

The federal benefits at stake are intended to replace the current system, in which protection varies by employer and state. California and New York are two of the 10 territories that have passed paid maternity leave laws. Only 23% of American workers have access to paid family leave. “Most workers with access to unpaid leave cannot afford to take it,” more than 100 Democratic congressmen wrote last week in a letter to Biden, pressuring him to keep the proposal. 95% of the lowest paid workers, mostly ethnic minority women, do not have access to paid leave.

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“There can be no long-term recovery without care. The paid leave is a necessary investment that would contribute to adding more than 1.6 trillion dollars to our economy through a greater participation of women in the workforce, ”the letter said. Several studies conclude that a federal program of low pay would boost the labor market, increasing the probability that mothers return to work after having children. About two million women left the labor market during the pandemic due to the increased need for care at home.

Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, criticized in a ceremony near the Capitol, the conditions of most of the women who dedicate themselves to the care of the children of others: earn the minimum wage and retire in the poverty. Accompanied by several Democratic legislators, including the president of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, she assured that the lack of these permits is one of the reasons that leads many people in the African-American community not to vote. “We already did our job going to the polls. Now it is up to the politicians to do theirs, ”added another black activist, who warned that in the next elections, the 2021 mid-term legislative elections, many will remember how the parties voted on this issue that has been silenced for decades.

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