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Change to maternity leave rules long overdue

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, made headlines earlier this year for announcing that she vowed to change senate rules to make it easier for future senators to take maternity leave.

In fact she told CNN, it was ridiculous that these types of changes were still making headlines in 2018.

She’s right. The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the developed world in granting workers not just maternity leave, but also any guaranteed paid leave of any kind. The U.S., in fact is the only advanced economy that does not mandate paid sick or maternity leave.

Most American works are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, which grants 12 weeks of leave per year to care for family members, but that time is unpaid. Nearly 40 other countries offer some level of paid time off for new mothers with the bulk of those nations offering between 15 – 20 weeks. Bulgaria tips the scale at 60 weeks off.

There are no U.S. Federal laws mandating paid sick time or vacation time. While the federal government closes for 10 federal holidays each year, these days are not mandated as time off for all U.S. workers.

You can Google the reasons why the U.S. is so different from every other developed nation when it comes to granting paid time off. Much of the reasoning comes from the aftermath of World War II. According to NPR, when the men came home from battle, the women left the jobs they picked up to help the homefront and returned to their roles as wife and mother. There was no reason to legislate policies that helped them balance work and home.

Meanwhile in Europe, the infrastructure was destroyed, as was the population. Women had to be in the workplace so paid leave policies were put in place to urge more women to join the workforce and rebuild the nation.

Now that American women are an integral part of the workforce, they are still fighting for their rights to be mothers as well. Trade groups and chambers of commerce have rebuffed efforts to implement paid-leave laws.  

Sen. Duckworth is right. Why are we still discussing this in 2018? Why should American women constantly be asked to choose between being an integral, important part of the workforce and an attentive mother?

They shouldn’t. Sen. Duckworth is a purple heart recipient who lost both legs during the Iraq War in 2004. She the first disabled woman and the second Asian-American woman to serve in the Senate.

It is time to stand behind her and demand changes be made to require paid maternity leave in America.

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