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Hawai‘i Working Families Push President to Address Paid Leave in State of the Union

Posted January 20, 2015, 09:38 AM HST
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Working families in Hawai‘i are calling on President Barack Obama to address paid sick days and paid family leave.

Working families in Hawai‘i are calling on President Barack Obama to address paid sick days and paid family leave policies during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

By Maui Now Staff

Working families in Hawai‘i are calling on President Barack Obama to address paid sick days and paid family leave policies during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Jan. 20. Letters from workers, parents, and caregivers in the islands have been sent to the president as part of a package from Family Values @ Work, a national network of 22 state coalitions pushing for family-friendly workplace policies.

“I do not want to live in fear of going broke because a family member or I become sick,” wrote one Hawai‘i worker. “Having paid sick days and paid family leave is important because it tells me that I am important to my company. My physical and emotional health is important, and keeping myself healthy allows me to work. Without paid leave, my family had to go through the system to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.”

Hawai‘i law currently allows for four weeks of unpaid leave to employees working at a business with over 100 workers. The Paid Family Leave Insurance bill (HB 2097) would allow for up to 12 weeks of paid leave, and would be funded employee-funded like Hawai‘i’s Temporary Disability Insurance program.

“This is a measure that I think is incredibly important to support,” wrote Gwen Woltz of Ka‘a‘awa. “It not only makes sense to support healthy and happy family life, but supporting happy and productive employees makes business sense. I had to go on six weeks unpaid leave, which was not enough time to re-coup and bond, but by that time I had no choice but to go back to work as I needed the income. I felt helpless and angry that I couldn’t have more time to nurture my family.”

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In 2014, three states and 15 cities passed laws for paid sick days, with three states enacting family and medical leave programs. Paid leave for sick days and family needs have been called “the next big issue” for the nation by political leaders, strategists, and activists. Sixty percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for officials who support these policies.

Hawai‘i’s Paid Family Leave coalition will hold an advocacy and educational event at the Hawai‘i State Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, from 9 a.m. to noon to raise awareness of the importance of family-friendly workplace policies to the local workforce.

To find out more on Hawai‘i’s Paid Family Leave Insurance bill, contact Cathy Betts, executive director of the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women, at (808) 586-5758, or Lisa Kimura, executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, at (808) 737-5805.

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