Newsletter: What's Up With Paid Family Leave?
We are living in unusual times, both in national and local politics. I want to thank all of you who are taking action, calling, emailing, and rallying to support our values as a city and as a country. I especially want to thank those who took action by contacting members of Congress to protect our ability to make decisions about what is the best policy for the District of Columbia. Your efforts are making a difference! Keep it up, and keep your ideas coming!
On the local front: It is oversight and budget season at the Wilson Building! Our version of March Madness is the best opportunity for you to tell me and my colleagues your priorities for how your tax dollars should be spent. The schedule is here. I also encourage you to attend Mayor Bowser’s budget engagement forums in the next week, which are listed below.
PAID FAMILY LEAVE UPDATE
At the end of December, I wrote to tell you that a supermajority of the Council voted twice in support of paid family leave, and I thanked many of you for your input and advocacy. Then last week, Mayor Bowser let the legislation go to Congress, the last step before it becomes law. A victory for working families!
But hang on: Now you might have read or heard that the Council is debating family leave again.
What’s going on?
Aggressive lobbying against universal paid leave did not end at the second approval vote by the Council. There was a major effort by representatives of big businesses to persuade the mayor to veto, as well as persuade Council members to sustain a veto. The mayor, ultimately, was not persuaded, but there was an agreement to hold additional hearings if Council members introduced legislation on the topic.
Yesterday, two of my colleagues proposed legislation to repeal and replace the Universal Paid Leave Act. Instead of having a universal approach, it would divide the playing field: Large employers would be mandated to provide and pay for leave largely out of pocket, as well as pay an additional tax; small employers would pay a higher rate and be part of an insurance pool. It would establish a program unlike the successful systems already in place across the country, in states like California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.
This hybrid social insurance/business mandate model raises many questions. The biggest question is whether it is an improvement. As noted by national experts, business mandate models can encourage employers to discriminate against applicants and workers of childbearing age. This proposed system is also more complicated. The District would need to create one entity to enforce and ensure compliance with our law, making sure that big businesses are giving workers time off and compensation. Then the law would also create an insurance pool for our smaller employers, asking them to play by different rules and pay a higher tax rate to give workers paid leave. Finally, under the new proposal family leave benefits could be delayed even further, until 2022.
There is little doubt that we all want our paid leave program to be the most efficient and cost-effective in the country for workers and businesses. Discussion should focus on improvement and not simply be a distraction to delay putting in place a program that will benefit working families, businesses, and ultimately our entire city. The Universal Paid Leave Act will become law soon, and we should stay on track with implementation. I am interested in hearing from you on this.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION
As you know, throughout February we celebrate the history, culture, accomplishments, and contributions of black Americans to our country. I’m excited to continue that celebration at the Wilson Building through a partnership with At-Large Councilmember Robert White and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White to start what we hope will be a new yearly tradition at the Wilson Building! Please join me and my Council colleagues for A Celebration of Black History in the District on Friday, February 24, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. in the First Floor Foyer of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW).
We’re thrilled to be joined by Silas Grant as emcee and have a wonderful program planned, including creative arts performances and remarks from Cora Masters Barry and Mr. Black History himself, Chuck Hicks. We’re also making a special effort to recognize youth who have made special contributions to the essence of Black History Month in the District. I hope to see strong support for such an important celebration in our city, so please join us and spread the word!
ADDITIONAL LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
Supporting Early Childhood Learning and Our Teachers: This past weekend you may have read in the Post about our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, making some disparaging comments about her recent trip to Jefferson Middle School in Ward 6. I am particularly proud of residents for quickly correcting the record and can attest to the progress District schools are making after meeting with Chancellor Antwan Wilson, meeting with the State Board of Education, and attending the performance oversight hearing for our Office of the State Superintendent of Education over the last couple of weeks.
My focus at the oversight hearing on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education was on how we support early childhood learning centers for infants and toddlers. As chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, I want to make sure we are supporting our working parents by giving them the supports they need to make sure that they have a safe, affordable, accessible place for their children during work hours. I am particularly interested in how we expand hours at our childcare centers for those who work non-traditional hours, on evenings, weekends, and even overnight.
The day after the oversight hearing, the Education Committee announced a hearing focused on four bills addressing early childhood learning, including my bill to study our need and capacity for non-traditional hour childcare. The hearing will be Thursday, March 30, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 412.
Committee on Labor and Workforce Development: I held my first oversight hearing for the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development last week to hear testimony from the Office of Employee Appeals and Public Employees Relations Board about the services they currently provide to the District and what opportunities there are to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
You can see the full schedule of oversight hearings here and stay on top of my committee’s upcoming events and hearings here. As always, feel free to call or email my office with any questions for District agencies or general comments.
In addition to joining the Council on Friday for A Celebration of Black History in the District, there are a few other free, family-oriented events happening this week to celebrate Black History Month:
- Madame Tussauds DC and the Department of Parks and Recreation are partnering to bring Black History Month to life with a free one-day event today, which includes activities and giveaways until 8:00 p.m. (1401 7th Street NW)
- The National Park Service will host special preview tours of the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site on Sunday, February 26, with the formal program beginning at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are free on a first-come, first-served basis and are available beginning at 2:30 p.m.
There are also a number of opportunities for you to share critical input on the District’s budget process, potential utility rates changes, and agency performances:
- Metro Police Department Volunteer Interest Meeting/Orientation: Thursday, February 23, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at 441 4th Street NW
- (Ward 8) Pepco Rate Increase Community Hearing: Thursday, February 23, at 6:00 p.m. at Allen AME Church (2498 Alabama Ave SE)
- (Ward 3) Budget Engagement Forum: Thursday, February 23, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Woodrow Wilson High School (3950 Chesapeake Street NW)
- D.C. Council Celebration of Black History in the District: Friday, February 24, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
- (Ward 7) Budget Engagement Forum: Saturday, February 25, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Department of Employment Services (4058 Minnesota Avenue NE)
- (Ward 1) Budget Engagement Forum: Monday, February 27, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (3101 16th Street NW)
Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Performance Oversight Hearing: Wednesday, March 1, beginning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 412 of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
- The Committee will hear testimony from the Office of Risk Management, Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, and Department of Human Resources.
- (Ward 5) Pepco Rate Increase Community Hearing: Wednesday, March 1, at 6:00 p.m. at the Providence Hospital Ross Auditorium (1150 Varnum Street NE)
- (Ward 2) Pepco Rate Increase Community Hearing: Saturday, March 4, at 11:00 a.m. at the D.C. Public Service Commission Hearing Room (1325 G Street NW, 8th Floor)
- (Ward 2) Pepco Rate Increase Community Hearing: Tuesday, March 7, at 6:00 p.m. at the D.C. Public Service Commission Hearing Room (1325 G Street NW, 8th Floor)
Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Performance Oversight Hearing: Wednesday, March 15, beginning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 500 of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
- The Committee will hear testimony from the Department of Employment Services, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, and the Workforce Investment Council.
I hope your week is off to a great start and look forward to seeing you this Friday at the Council’s Black History Month celebration!