State Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) speaking on behalf of including Paid Family and Medical Leave language in the historic ‘Grand Bargain’ bill passed by both houses of the Massachusetts Legislature on June 20, 2018 – Courtesy image (c) 2018 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

 

Submitted by the Office of State Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford)

The Massachusetts House and Senate passed a statewide program that will provide a Paid Family and Medical Leave program to most all workers in the Commonwealth, as part of a consolidated bill that will also incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to $6.75.  The bill will also create a permanent sales tax holiday each August and eliminate the requirement that employers pay their workers time a half on Sundays and holidays.

Rep. Gordon authored much of the Paid Family Leave bill that was incorporated in the package.  He spoke about the family leave policy at the State House as 126 House members voted in favor of the bill, to 25 against.  In the Senate, the bill passed 30-8.

“We in government like to talk about family values.  Here today, in Massachusetts, we are passing a bill that reflects our family values,” said Gordon.  “The Paid Family Leave program is designed to keep families together at times of great joy and to allow families to be together at times of great stress and great sorrow. Compare that to what we see coming out of Washington, where for the past few weeks all we’ve heard is excuses for ripping families apart.  Once again Massachusetts sets the example”.

The family leave portion of the bill will provide partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks for workers to care for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a hospitalized child, parent, spouse or other specified relative or one who is under constant medical care.  It will provide for up to 20 weeks of wage replacement for a worker’s own non-workplace related injury.  Lower paid workers will receive a greater wage replacement than higher paid workers.

“This compromise strikes the right balance of empowering employees, supporting our hard-working residents, and ensuring that businesses can continue to provide good, steady jobs,” said House Speaker Robert A. Deleo.

In advocating for the program, Rep. Gordon spoke to the owners of a number of local small businesses, who told him that when one of their workers takes an extended leave, replacing them is a risky, expensive process they would prefer to avoid.  The program calls upon employers and employees to provide a premium into an insurance plan.  Employers and employees will split the premium equally, but businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers will be not be charged their share.

Rep. Gordon spoke to House colleagues of a 2015 study conducted by Columbia University Professor Jane Waldfogel, which surveyed thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in Rhode Island two years after that state’s program was underway.  She found that 61 percent of employers viewed the program favorably or very favorably. She renewed her study in 2016, two years after New Jersey’s paid leave went into effect and found that two-thirds of business owners were satisfied or very satisfied.

The bill was the result of months of negotiations between the state’s most significant business and labor interests.  Called the “Grand Bargain”, the legislation will resolve and remove four measures otherwise headed for the November ballot, including the Massachusetts Retailers’ effort to lower the state sales tax to 5 percent.

“Direct democracy is important and has its place,” said Gordon.  “But this legislation, and especially the Family Leave portion of it, is complex and is best passed after thorough vetting by the legislative process and input from the stakeholders.”

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Rep. Gordon for keeping The Citizen’s readers alert to the progress of his Family and Medical Leave bill since September, 2015

 

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