Celebrating 25 Years of the FMLA With a Resounding Call for Paid Leave for All
This week, marked the 25th anniversary of Bill Clinton signing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — the nation’s first and only national leave law. The milestone was an opportunity to celebrate how the FMLA has improved our culture and our workplaces. Since 1993, the FMLA has allowed people to take leave more than 200 million times to address serious personal or family care needs without risking their jobs.
The anniversary was also a resounding call to action to win national paid family and medical leave. As this wrap up shows, there is tremendous strength, diversity, passion and clout behind the vibrant movement to win paid family and medical leave for all working people, no matter where they live, their employers or their jobs.
At a time when the nation is having an extraordinary and long overdue moment of reckoning about women, work and family, we sent a clear message — across many geographic locations and platforms — that in order to secure a future in which all working women and people can live and work with dignity and respect, we need a national paid family and medical leave policy. It was a historic and energizing week.
A Remarkable Digital Footprint
On Feb. 5, the FMLA’s anniversary, advocacy organizations in the national paid leave coalition, business leaders, members of Congress, the media and individuals across the country took to social media to share their support for paid leave and what #paidleavemeans to them in honor of #FMLA25.
On Twitter, #FMLA25 trended in the United States for several hours. In total, more than 12,000 accounts tweeted using the hashtag. Several high-profile and influential women, such as Hillary Clinton, Maria Shriver, Melinda Gates, Shonda Rhimes, Sophia Bush and Sheryl Sandberg used their personal digital platforms to call for a national paid leave policy. Dozens of major companies used the hashtag and their digital platforms to express their support for paid leave (see below). And 85 members of Congress used #FMLA25 on Twitter. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s tweet (pictured above) was the second-most re-tweeted post of the day.
Individuals also used digital tools, such as WeTweet.org and advocacy organization platforms, to send thousands of messages to their members of Congress about what paid leave means to them and the importance of a national paid family and medical leave plan. Family Values @ Work hosted a Facebook Live, “State of Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days,” and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) included paid leave and #FMLA25 in its #FightingForFamilies Week of Action.
Lawmakers Show Up, Take Action and Speak Out
In addition to events happening across the country, the National Partnership for Women & Families hosted a special congressional reception on Capitol Hill on Feb. 5 to bring together federal legislative champions, state and local lawmakers, national paid leave coalition partners, state and local paid leave advocates, and the public to celebrate the FMLA’s success and call for the FAMILY Act.
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) both released statements on the day of the anniversary, as did the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Joint Economic Committee Democrats and U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats released new fact sheets.
The reception opened with remarks by Rep. Pelosi, and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) spoke about their support for paid leave. National Partnership President Debra L. Ness addressed the room, and Saru Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) and a TIME’S UP activist, delivered a stirring speech about the importance of worker-friendly policies like paid leave and fair wages. “We need one fair wage … [and] the #FAMILYAct. We need both,” she said.
The FAMILY Act gained six new co-sponsors for the Feb. 5 celebration — Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tina Smith, and Reps. Al Green (D-Texas) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).
The next day, Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hosted a roundtable discussion on the economic benefits of paid leave, moderated by National Partnership Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies Vicki Shabo. On Feb. 7, Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand and Heidi Heitkamp took to the floor of the Senate to deliver speeches to celebrate the FMLA and call for paid family and medical leave for all.
But not all of the action or attention was in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers spoke out about their support for paid leave in the media, online and in places across the country too. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) penned an emotional op-ed for CNN. State lawmakers in Massachusetts, Montana and Oregon wrote op-eds. Rep. Rosa DeLauro joined advocates and local leaders in Connecticut for a paid leave event. Ohio state Reps. Kristin Boggs and Janine Boyd and Sen. Charleta Tavares introduced state paid family and medical leave legislation. In Virginia, Del. Mark Sickles and Sen. Jennifer McClellan commemorated the anniversary with speeches in the legislature. The Colorado legislature held a hearing on a paid leave proposal. Wisconsin legislators and advocates beat back a proposal to weaken the state’s FMLA law. And as part of SiX’s week of action, lawmakers in Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia spoke out in support of paid leave through events and social media.
Businesses Voice Their Support
A growing number of employers are leading on leave by establishing or expanding their own paid leave policies and endorsing public policies because they understand that paid leave is good for their bottom lines and the economy. So it comes as no surprise that several companies and business leaders — including Adobe, Airbnb, Trish Stroman of Boston Consulting Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, BP America, Cigna, Deloitte, Eileen Fisher, EMD Serono, Geben Communication, the i2 Coalition, L’Oreal, Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, Levi Strauss, MTV, Nestlé, Patagonia, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, UncommonGoods, Whirlpool, Working Mother magazine and XO Group Inc. — also used their digital and social media channels to celebrate the FMLA andlift up their own paid leave policies. Several also publicly expounded on their support specifically for the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY Act) — the leading paid leave proposal in Congress.
Jan Jones of Caesar’s Entertainment, Geben Communication, The Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Union Square Hospitality Group and XO Group Inc. publicly endorsed the FAMILY Act for the first time this week — joining the growing list of businesses that recognize the need for a national paid leave policy.
The Media Take Note
The FMLA anniversary and national push for paid family and medical leave generated significant attention among the press as well. Major outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, Forbes, MarketWatch, Salon, Bustle, Romper and Ms. Magazine published stories that included it, as did outlets in nearly all 50 states. Dozens of reporters and media outlets used the anniversary as a hook for talking about leave and sharing related content as well.
Before, during and after the anniversary, several major national, regional and online outlets featured opinion pieces from paid leave leaders, including The Denver Post (MomsRising), The Hill (The Arc and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Partnership for Women & Families), the Richmond Times-Dispatch (the National Partnership and Progress Virginia), the Boulder Daily Camera (State Innovation Exchange) and Shondaland (the National Partnership). Slate’s Better Life Lab blog dedicated a series to the FMLA anniversary that featured contributions from Family Values @ Work, New America and two pieces from the National Partnership, including one on the history of the FMLA.
At the FMLA congressional reception on Feb. 5, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that “the only reason anything happens in Washington is because people across the country stand up and demand it.” With the mobilization of so many working people, organizations, lawmakers and business leaders this week, a strong national paid family and medical leave policy like the FAMILY Act is surely on the horizon.
Events Across the Country
- Center for American Progress: Good for Business: Making the Case for Strong Work-Life Policies, a conversation with business leaders
- Family Values @ Work: Press conference on the need to defend Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act
- Human Rights Campaign: Congressional briefing on a survey of LGBTQ+ families on paid leave
- Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota: Roundtable with Minnesota federal and state lawmakers
- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): Event joining leadership and employees at Avesta Housing in Portland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the FMLA
- MomsRising: Delivery of personal stories and resources to members of Congress
- The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, Geben Communication, the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio: Screening of “Zero Weeks”
- Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.): Digital roundtable on FAMILY Act and Colorado FAMLI Act
- YWCA: Congressional briefing and reception, “Building a Safe, Economically Secure Future for Women and Girls”
Blog Posts, Statements and Other Publications
- 1,000 Days: It’s time for Change — It’s Time for Paid Family Leave
- AARP: The Family And Medical Leave Act Remains Vital for Older Workers
- A Better Balance: A Foundation and A Blueprint
- American Sustainable Business Council: Policy Points: Paid Leave for Less Than 1/2 Cent per Dollar of Pay
- The Arc: How the Family and Medical Leave Act Saved My Family
- Bell Policy Center: Testimony: Support FAMLI to Give Colorado Workers Paid Leave
- Boston College Center for Work and Family: FMLA Turns 25 Today: It’s Time for US to (Family) Act
- Center for American Progress: Why Strong Work-Life Policies Are Good for Business; Jaqueline’s Story: Paid Family Leave
- Center for Economic and Policy Research: America Needs a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Program that Works for Working Families
- Center for Parental Leave Resources: FMLA is Twenty-Five! A Roundup of Anniversary Articles and Resources
- The Century Foundation: New York State’s New Paid Family Leave Law Is the Strongest One Yet
- Economic Policy Institute: Providing unpaid leave was only the first step; 25 years after the Family and Medical Leave Act, more workers need paid leave
- First Focus: Building on the Foundation of FMLA: How Paid and Medical Family Leave Would Help Children Nationwide
- Human Rights Campaign: 2018 U.S. LGBTQ Paid Leave Survey (Report); HRC Releases First-Of-Its-Kind Survey of LGBTQ Community on Need for Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance: Modest Costs are a Good investment in America’s Economy; 25 Years after FMLA: Research Finds that Paid Leave is a Great Investment
- Jacqueline James (co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College) and Professor Jennifer Greenfield (assistant professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work): Family and Medical Leave Act at 25: What’s Next?
- Legal Aid at Work: As FMLA turns 25, California expands access to family leave, but gaps remain
- Main Street Alliance: The View From Main Street: Paid Family and Medical Leave
- National Military Family Association: Family and Medical Leave Act: What is it and Can Military Families Use It?
- National Partnership for Women & Families: With Nation’s Unpaid Leave Law Turning 25 Next Week, New Analysis Shows Workers in Every State Urgently Need a National Paid Leave Program; Paid Family and Medical Leave Means a Stronger Nation; As the Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 25, the Country Urgently Needs a National Paid Leave Plan, Women’s Leader Says; Fighting for Families Means Fighting for National Paid Family and Medical Leave (for SiX); Economic Costs of Inaction on Paid Leave infographic
- Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network: Guest Blog: Paid Family and Medical Leave is Good Business; Twenty-Five Years Later: What’s Next for American Workers After 25 Years of the Family Medical Leave Act?
- Washington Center for Equitable Growth: After 25 years, it’s time for paid leave