City of Pittsburgh Council District 4
Councilwoman Rudiak's Paid Parental Leave Remarks

For far too long, working families across the country and right here in Pittsburgh have been left with no reasonable options for taking the needed time to care for a new child. It turns out that having a baby is the most expensive health event that families face during their childbearing years, and it is estimated that 13 percent of families with a new infant become poor within a month.

 

That is why I introduced legislation to grant at least 6 weeks of full paid family leave to employees of the City of Pittsburgh.The legislation would include both moms and dads AND it includes those who are having, adopting, or fostering children.  

 

Without this legislation, City employees must use unpaid leave as part of the 20-year-old Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but only after exhausting all earned sick and vacation time. Yet for many families, unpaid leave is a luxury; not an option. And, for any of us who have spent any time with a crying newborn, we know that that time is certainly not a vacation.

This isn’t just a benefit for parents. It’s a benefit for all of us. Welcoming a child into the world is a crucial time in one’s life that deserves full attention, and we know that when parents get to spend time with their children early on, all of society benefits. Moreover, when we give employees the flexibility and freedom to cherish their family life, we tell them that we value their overall well-being. This leads to higher retention rates in the long run.


Studies show that paid parental leave policies are cost effective ways to reduce infant mortality, improve successful nursing of newborns, and shorten hospital stays. Six weeks is often the first time at which day care centers will accept newborn children, enabling families to go back to work.

 

Children whose parents have paid leave are shown to achieve higher educational attainment, lower teen pregnancy rates, higher IQ scores, and even higher earnings in adulthood.
 

According to our partners at the National Partnership for Women & Families, mothers who take paid leave are more likely than mothers who don’t to be working 12 months after a child’s birth. And they’re more likely to return to their same employer and to earn higher wages over time. In the year after the birth of a child, mothers who take paid leave are 54 percent more likely to report wage increases than mothers who do not and are 39 percent less likely to receive public assistance or food stamps. When fathers take paid leave, they too are significantly less likely to receive public assistance or food stamps than fathers who do not.

 

And we know that paid parental leave is good for employers. Providing paid leave to new parents ensures that parents will come back to work after the birth of a child. That means we retain the experience and knowledge of our workforce over time, and save the costs of turnover, like hiring, training, and lost productivity.  While we will see from today’s post agenda that there is no significant budgetary impact from implementing a paid parental leave policy, but replacing and training new employees is expensive-- between 25% and 200% of an employee’s annual salary.
 

Finally, paid leave is a wise public investment. More people at work, earning higher wages, means more people paying taxes and contributing to key public programs like Social Security. In addition, paid leave reduces costs to other programs like food stamps and public assistance.

 

Why this? Why now? We have seen, with living wage laws, with clean air and clear water legislation, that when Pittsburgh leads, the region and nation follow.

 

Just one week after our paid leave legislation was introduced, President Obama came out to the nation encouraging states, cities and businesses to pass parental leave policies. To paraphrase the President in his State of the Union speech,

“We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers….It’s time we stop treating the care of our nation’s childhood as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

 

You may think-- if the government isn’t mandating this benefit, surely, private employers are. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Just 12% of private sector workers nationwide are afforded paid family leave by their employers.

In the words of one of our speakers you’ll hear from today, “We found that whether a mom or dad, son or daughter, husband or wife has access to paid leave is a function of where they work and where they live. And, unfortunately, most people are left out.”

So why this? Why now?

We know that when the City of Pittsburgh leads, other municipalities and the region follow. We’re doing what we know is right for our workforce and our families right now. I sincerely hope that this is a stopgap measure, and that the private sector Congress will act to ensure this practical benefit is available for all working families in America.

Published:
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
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