Trending: paid leave, a living wage, and more?!

The United States is the only nation in the industrialized world that provides no paid time off at a country-wide level to new parents or, for that matter, to others needing family or medical leave. Fortunately, the deliberate dysfunction of Congress largely creating this difficult situation has not deterred responsible States from taking a leadership role in bringing the nation into the Twenty First Century.

Although California, New Jersey, and other jurisdictions have already adopted paid leave policies, New York recently enacted the most robust leave law anywhere in the country. Under a phased approach over the next 5 years, New Yorkers ultimately will be able to receive 12 weeks of paid leave at a pay rate of 2/3 of their ordinary compensation when they were working. New York law contrasts sharply with Federal law. The Family and Medical Leave Act, 26 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq. offers up to 12 weeks of leave – but none of it is paid and, moreover, the leave is only available if the employer has at least 50 employees.

New York is also leading the way, along with California, in requiring employers to pay at least $15 per hour – that is, a living wage. New York and California will phase in that minimum wage requirement over approximately 5 years.

This dramatic and necessary increase in the minimum wage, along with the adoption of paid leave policies, result directly from the creative and multi-faceted advocacy by a growing coalition of civil rights, social and economic justice, and labor activists who recognize that we all do better when we all do better. The “Black Friday” and fast food strikes that have occurred in hundreds of cities across the nation over the past several years – and the “Fight for Fifteen” actions happening around the country today – provide a powerful illustration of the rapidly expanding effort for a more just and sustainable future for everyone.