Pat Schroeder

Family and Medical Leave Act - April 10, 2008

Pat Schroeder
April 10, 2008— Washington, D.C.
House Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing
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Thank you very much Congresswoman Woolsey and this wonderful panel. I really, really appreciate the time and the effort because as we all know employment practices in the U.S. have really not kept pace with most that the rest of the developed world.

And as the congresswoman said, I am kind of the mother of the Family Medical Leave Act, and it did take nine years to get this thing into law, so it was a very frustrating and long period. In 1988, after it had been introduced for three years, I looked insanely at running for president, and when I came to my senses and got out, my good friends said to me, but we've lost our forum for talking about family issues. And so Gary David Goldberg, who was then writing “Family Ties,” and doctor T. Berry Brazelton, who is the famous pediatrician from Harvard, and Dr. Diana [unintelligible] and I decided to do this family tour, we basically went to the South to talk about family leave. We went to the primary states in the South because that's where we were having the most trouble trying to get cosponsors.

And I must say, Congressman Wilson, so we were so impressed with your state because in your state, yours was the only state in the South where the Chamber of Commerce backed us.

They were very, very pro, and they were very welcoming.

In all of these states, we outdrew all the politicians. People came out in droves and the stories we heard, you all know, it was very tragic. This choosing between your job or your family was a very tough thing.

The other thing we know is there is so much research done on bonding, how important those early bonding years were, and there was research even showing that many criminals have not had proper bonding, so this was important.

Now I had started out wanting 18 months, we got 12. I wanted 20 employees with 25, companies with 25 or more being covered, but we got 50 and so forth and so on.

But we made tremendous progress, and we came back, and we even had, at that point, the first George Bush was running for president, and even he said that he would back family-leave because we had made so much noise in so many states. We were very disappointed when he vetoed it after we passed it the first time, and then he vetoed it again, and it took until 1993 when we finally were able to pass it and get it signed into law.

It has been very depressing to see for these 15 years we really haven't made much progress until all of you, thank goodness, did something for our military families, which was long, long overdue, and now we see a few states, like Congressman Payne, state of New Jersey, has done a wonderful job of passing paid family leave, and I think that's now been signed into law or is about to be, so that's very, very exciting.

But it really seems to me that the time has come where we'd need to look at paid leave because so many families can't deal with this, and congressman you were talking about so many companies or people who work in smaller places can't use this, so we really need to investigate how can we move forward on this? This is a very, very important thing and people and other countries have done it long ago. We still are doing less than any other country, any other developed country in this area.

So I really thank you so much Congresswoman for starting these hearings. I think after 15 years it really is time to look at this. In fact, can't we go forward? Can't we build on this?

We have, after we passed this, for two years, we went around the country to have hearings to see if anybody have been severely impacted because the horror stories we heard before we passed this, was like all industry was going to stop in America, and happily we didn't find that kind of impact. Instead we found people very happy, so thank you very much um I will quietly move along.