Obama’s Plans A, B, C (and D) for Paid Sick Leave

President Obama wants all U.S. workers to have access to paid leave, and he’s not afraid to bypass Congress. Again.

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President Obama drummed up support for mandatory paid sick leave at a Baltimore coffee shop. According to the President’s statement, employers like Charmington’s Café who have voluntarily offered paid sick leave and pay more than the minimum wage experience greater worker productivity, lower staff turnover, and increased profits.

With Congress often deadlocked (or just dead-set against him), President Obama has developed several plans to help the national paid sick leave movement gain momentum – plans that mirror the effort to raise the minimum wage.

Plan A: Congressional Passage of the Healthy Families Act

Noting that 43 million American workers don’t have access to any paid sick leave, the President is advocating that Congress pass the Healthy Families Act (H.R.1286). The Healthy Families Act would require employers who employ 15 or more employees to allow each employee to earn at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked to:

  • Meet his/her own medical needs
  • Care for the medical needs of family members (including a domestic partner or the domestic partner’s parent or child)
  • Seek medical attention, assist a related person, take legal action, or engage in other specified activities relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Plan B: Paid Sick Leave Passed by City and State Governments

Given the current Republican majority in Congress, the Healthy Families Act isn’t likely to pass, so the President mentioned a hot back-up plan: “to go beat the drum across cities and states to encourage not only that these laws are adopted nationally, but also that employers start adopting these policies as well”.

He sweetened the deal by announcing that the Department of Labor would offer to fund implementation studies for states and cities.

Currently only three U.S. states — California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — offer paid family and medical leave. Massachusetts will require employers to offer earned sick leave beginning July 1, 2015. More than a dozen U.S. cities have paid sick leave ordinances,

President Obama already had set the example at the federal level by issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to allow federal workers to take six weeks of advanced paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family members.

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What’s the difference between a Presidential Memorandum and an Executive Order?

A Presidential Memorandum and an Executive Order are essentially the same thing, but when President Obama came under scrutiny for issuing too many Executive Orders and bypassing Congressional involvement, the White House began issuing Presidential Memoranda instead. Obama has issued more Presidential Memoranda than any other U.S. President. Read more here.


Plan C: Voluntary Paid Leave by Employers

Presidential Adviser Valerie Jarret Turns to LinkedIn to connect with employers.

In a coordinated social media blitz, the White House’s message even reached LinkedIn. In her debut Pulse article, Senior Adviser to President, Valerie Jarrett, urged LinkedIn readers to take action voluntarily:

This is the world’s largest online audience of professionals. And if you’re an employer, the folks who are coming to your company’s pages will be looking to see if you offer precisely these sorts of policies on your books. These are the policies that will attract the best new talent. They are the policies that will make the employees you hire more productive — and encourage them to stay longer. Keep in mind that nearly one in two working parents has turned down a job because it would not work for their family. Don’t let your job be one of those.

Currently, workers are granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Plan D: Lose the Battle but Win the Hashtag

The Democrats flooded social media, “owning the hashtag” prior to President Obama’s public appeal to Congress and U.S. employers. The outreach campaign will help drive grassroots support so that workers will put pressure on employers and constituents will light fires (hopefully figurative fires) under politicians.

Here’s a collection of tweets supporting the President from the #leadonleave hashtag.


The Twitter stream even saw a torrent of infographics to help the cause. Be warned – some of these are quite, well, graphical.


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