Magazine article Working Mother

The Working Mom's Guide to the 2012 Election

Magazine article Working Mother

The Working Mom's Guide to the 2012 Election

Article excerpt

WHERE DO YOUR CANDIDATES STAND ON WHAT MATTERS MOST? HERE'S THE OUTLOOK ON SIX CRUCIAL ISSUES THAT HAVE BEEN IGNORED ON CAPITOL HILL FOR TOO LONG.

AS ELECTION DAY APPROACHES, it's easy to forget that there's more than the presidency at stake: all 435 seats in the house of representatives and a third of the senate are up for grabs as well.

The outcome of these races will, if anything, be even more critical to concerns faced by working parents than who takes control of the oval office. because ultimately, for each of us 25 million working moms in the united states today, it's congress that wields the most power to make the workplace family-friendly. unfortunately, despite nonstop election-year chatter about the state of the economy, many lawmakers don't seem too concerned that antiquated laws and policies make it difficult to care for a family while earning a living.

Those who understand the importance of keeping parents working deserve our kudos: For the third biennial best of congress awards, Working Mother and corporate Voices for working Families, a nonprofit national business membership group, have joined to honor 30 members of congress who have our best interests in mind. For the first time, however, we faced an unusual challenge in making our choices: a lack of tangible legislative achievements to use in evaluating members' votes in support of working moms. among the two dozen family-friendly measures proposed by members on both sides of the aisle in 2011, just one-the Vow to hire heroes act, providing retraining assistance for veterans and tax incentives for employers to hire them-was signed into law. other long-sought goals, such as a federal paid family leave act, languished in legislative limbo without even making it into a committee hearing, much less a full vote in either chamber "in this congress, relationships have been strained," says nathan constable, manager of government relations for corporate Voices. "the bipartisan spirit you would have seen in the past on some of these issues wasn't there."

While there are still a few months leftin the 112th congress, few observers expect anything to happen before the november elections. that should leave plenty of work for the next congress, so the outcome of congressional races is crucial. two of our 2012 best of congress winners-senators herb kohl (D-wi) and kay bailey hutchison (r-tX)- are retiring this year; a third, rep. tammy baldwin (D-wi), is running for kohl's senate seat (see full list on page 71). "we're hopeful that candidates will push issues like equal pay and the economic security of families to the forefront," says Leticia mederos, vice president of the national partnership for women & Families, which advocates for familyfriendly workplaces. the organization, plus momsrising and ultraViolet, have joined with Working Mother to launch a petition for mandated paid family leave in the u.s.; we had nearly 50,000 signatures by press time.

THE ISSUES WE HOPE THE NEXT CONGRESS WILL FOCUS ON TO SUPPORT WORKING FAMILIES:

Paid Family Leave

ever since the passage, nearly 20 years ago, of the landmark Family and medical Leave act (FmLa)- which mandates that most companies allow workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth, medical emergencies or caregiving-advocates have pushed for a paid version. (the united states still stands alone among industrialized nations as lacking such a policy.) however, the economic downturn has complicated the debate, with opponents arguing that any type of required leave would add an unfair cost to employers struggling to survive. but that's a misperception, counters the national partnership for women & Families, which recently commissioned a study by rutgers university on paid leave policies. it found that paid leave helps companies retain employees and improve productivity.

"The opposition is painting this as an 'employer versus employee' issue," says mederos. "our research shows instead that it's win-win. …

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