Thursday, January 15, 2015

No, Valerie Jarrett, Paid Leave *Is* a Partisan Issue

Today, the White House will begin a campaign to push for guaranteed paid sick leave for workers.
Here are the steps that Valerie Jarrett said that the President will be taking in her LinkedIn post from yesterday:
So on Thursday, President Obama will call on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time — and call on states and cities to pass similar laws. The President will outline a new plan to help states create paid leave programs, and provide new funding through the Department of Labor for feasibility studies that will help other states and municipalities figure out the best way to implement programs of their own. And the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum that will ensure federal employees have access to at least 6 weeks of paid sick leave when a new child arrives and propose that Congress offer 6 weeks of paid administrative leave as well.
When talking about the initiative to reporters, Jarrett commented, “This is not a partisan issue; this is a family issue, and it’s an economic issue." 
Sorry, Valerie Jarrett, but it is a partisan issue.

Now, I would agree that it is not a partisan issue among voters. A poll from 2013 found that majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans are supported guaranteed paid sick leave: 84% of Democrats, 68% of Independents, and 69% of Republicans.

However, it is a partisan issue in Congress--and probably at every political level as well in most parts of the country.

The Healthy Families Act, which was introduced by Tom Harkin last session, had 23 co-sponsors (in addition to Harkin himself): 22 Democrats plus Bernie Sanders. Rosa DeLauro's identical bill in the House had 134 co-sponsors: all Democrats.

Republicans in Congress simply do not support this issue. Democrats should be reminding people that when campaigning: This is not a partisan issue among the American people, but it is in Congress because Republicans care more about the CEO's profits than the health and well-being of workers and their families. If Democrats want to connect more with voters (and turn more non-votes into voters), then they need to be making such contrasts clear. Embrace what makes your party different from the other one.

The Healthy Families Act or any similar legislation is not likely to go anywhere in the next two years. (Frankly, Obama should have pushed for it when Democrats had the ability to pass it or even as part of a comprehensive Democratic plan for America's workers and families before the election, but that's another story.) But what Democrats can do is send a clear message about which party is on the side of the people on this issue, and which party is not. And you don't do that by trying to depoliticize it.

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