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House Bill 3087 ensures Oregon workers can afford to take the time they need to deal with a serious personal or family illness, bond with a new child
(Salem, Ore.)—The House Committee on Early Childhood and Family Supports held a public hearing today on proposed legislation that will ensure all working Oregonians have paid time away to welcome a new child, to recover from a serious illness or to care for a sick loved one. House Bill 3087—co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Williamson and Representatives Alonso Leon, Hernandez and Keny-Guyer—will create a paid family and medical leave insurance program available to every employed Oregonian.
“Paid family and medical leave is a basic protection guaranteed to working families in countries around the world,” said House Majority Leader Williamson. “As a country and a state, we are lagging severely behind. It’s time for Oregon to prioritize this issue and ensure that a new baby or a health crisis no longer means potential financial disaster for working families.”
Williamson also stated that a paid family and medical leave program will help reduce turnover costs and level the playing field for employers.
A broad coalition submitted testimony in support of the bill, including co-sponsors of the legislation, workers, businesses and community organizations. Participants included: Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon; Ramon Ramirez, President of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN); Amy Donohue, Principal at Bora Architects; and Rachel Jesequel, a Beaverton mom who struggled after the birth of her child as a result of no paid family leave.
Currently, only 14 percent of workers across the nation have access to paid family and medical leave at work. Federal and Oregon law provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for some workers—however, these laws don’t apply to everyone and they don’t help with lost income. In addition, many family members are excluded by workplace and economic policies that fail to recognize the nearly 80 percent of American families that don’t fit the nuclear family model of a married mother and father and their biologically related children.
“As Oregonians, we stand for family values, and those values don’t end at the workplace door,” said Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon and Chair of the Time For Oregon Coalition. “Workers need the security of knowing they can pay the bills when they need time off to welcome a new child or care for someone they love.”
Data also shows that workers in low-paying jobs are the least likely to have access to the paid family and medical leave they need to help avoid financial catastrophe when illness strikes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the bottom quarter of wage earners only 5 percent have access to paid family leave compared to 21 percent of the highest quarter. These workers are disproportionately women and people of color, who are also the most likely to take on the care of an ill relative to avoid the cost of other forms of care.
“My husband didn’t have paid family leave after our daughter was born and was only able to take two days off to be with us in the hospital, ” said Rachel Jesequel. “Our family was stressed. I had a really difficult recovery from the birth and it was hard to take care of the baby without his help. It was so painful to also watch Kevin struggle because he didn’t get the time he needed to bond with our daughter.”
The proposed legislation creates a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program that will be:
• A self-sustaining insurance program administered by the state;
• Structured as a social insurance program, like Social Security or Unemployment Insurance;
• Funded by a shared contribution by employers and employees, each providing a small percent of payroll to a state-managed insurance fund that will administer the program;
• A way for employees to receive partial income replacement when they need family or medical leave; and
• Inclusive of more families, defined as individuals related “by blood or affinity” — to better reflect Oregon family structures and relationships.
The bill now awaits a work session in the House committee.