May 18, 2015

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UUP joins vigil for paid family leave

uupdate 5-19-15

UUP has long advocated for paid family leave at SUNY, so union members were glad to add their voices to a Moral Mondays vigil in the Capitol to help extend that right to workers throughout the state.

Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler, Secretary Eileen Landy and members from the Oneonta and Albany chapters joined with dozens of other supporters May 18 to push for a bill that would provide 12 weeks of paid family leave to workers after the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill loved one. Advocates gathered in the second floor War Room of the Capitol to pray, sing and share stories of how family leave helped them after the birth of a child, or during a parent's illness.

The bill is before both houses, and advocates recently spent a day meeting with lawmakers asking for their support in moving the bill before the session ends. The Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, Citizen Action and the Albany County Federation of Labor were among the groups that joined UUP and NYSUT at the vigil.

UUP, which has supported paid family leave for years, has kept the push for paid family leave at SUNY at the forefront of their concerns, Dangler said.

“We have members organizing efforts to raise awareness of family leave on many campuses, and some have actually established family leave committees,” said Dangler, who spoke to the supporters at the vigil about the importance of such a benefit. “A number of campus senates have passed resolutions to support paid family leave. And UUP has tried to get a uniform paid family leave policy at SUNY through contract negotiations for many years.”

Landy, above, with Kyle Britton, the Oneonta Chapter's outreach/legislative director, called statewide paid family leave “an idea whose time has come.”

“It’s unconscionable that we don’t have this,” she said. For people who have children, or family to take care of, it’s a necessity. Not everyone can afford to take time off without pay.”

Bill Simons, president of the Oneonta UUP chapter, called families “the greatest investment this country can make.” He and Rob Compton, Oneonta’s vice president for academics, noted that paid family leave would increase productivity, by not forcing employees to fit care giving for a sick family member around their full-time work responsibilities.

Said Simons, “This is an investment in our future, our children and in America.”

The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that does not provide paid family leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act protects a worker’s job during a leave for specified family and medical reasons, but does not require employers to pay employees during the leave.

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