California Makes the Grade on Family-Friendly Workplaces

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the day the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect and a new report shows what many of us who live and work in California already know: When it comes to supporting new and expecting families, California is the place to be.

The National Partnership for Women and Families recently released a report grading all 50 states on state laws that benefit new and expecting parents. The report gave California an A grade based on our ground-breaking laws to support expectant mothers, provide expanded paid family leave and paid sick days, to name a few. California was the only state in the country to receive an “A.”

The report highlights why California’s strong, worker-friendly laws are so important, especially to working moms.

Women’s wages are crucial to their families’ economic survival. Women with children are primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families,3 and employed married women bring in, on average, 44 percent of their families’ household income.4 Forty percent of married Latinas and more than 50 percent of married African American women bring in at least half of their families’ income; these numbers have increased dramatically since 1975.5 The share of single-parent families has also grown;6 parents (usually mothers) in these households often bear sole responsibility for their families’ economic security. All of this leads to the same conclusion: A woman’s income loss during pregnancy or parental leave can have significant and even devastating consequences for her family.

Sadly, California’s attention to these issues is more of the exception than the rule. Twenty-seven states received either a “D” or “F” grade in the report, showing how far we still need to go as a country. And while California is a national leader and model on these issues, we can still do more to expand paid family leave to even more young parents and protect the jobs of those who take paid family leave.

Many of the good laws California have passed have been directly due to the advocacy of unions. It’s a priority for California’s labor movement to continue pushing forward to create family-friendly workplace policy that has proven time and again to support healthier communities.

While an “A” is pretty damn good, when it comes to supporting working people, we won’t settle for anything less than an “A+”.