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Obama says US should offer paid maternity leave

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world and offer paid leave for mothers of newborns.

"Many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth - now that's a pretty low bar," Obama said at the White House Summit on Working Families. "That, we should be able to take care of."

The president is talking about paid maternity in the midst of a midterm election campaign focused on women voters, raising questions about how he would fund such a system. "If France can figure this out, we can figure this out," Obama said.

While some companies offer paid family leave to attract workers, the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act only requires that employers provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.

Obama praised California, Rhode Island and New Jersey for creating a state benefit. But he has not endorsed legislation that would create a similar national system funded by a payroll tax, and he pledged in his 2008 presidential campaign not to raise taxes on families making under $250,000 a year.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has introduced legislation that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave through a fund in the Social Security Administration, paid for by contributions from employees and employers of 0.2 percent of wages. She said she has personally encouraged the president to back it and hopes he will, despite his tax pledge.

"We're talking about 2 cents of every $10," she said in an interview at the summit. She said without such a fund, eight out of 10 workers can't take advantage of their right for family leave because they can't afford it.

When Obama came to the White House, he instituted six weeks of paid leave for his workers when they have a child, get sick or injured or need to care for an ailing family member, using his authority to set his staff's compensation under the personnel code. He does not have the power to award paid leave to other federal workers without congressional action since they are covered under a different section of law. The White House has supported the goal of legislation introduced by lawmakers to change that, but it has yet to get through Congress.

"There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us," Obama said. "And that is not the list you want to be on - on your lonesome. It's time to change that."

Obama also encouraged employers to have more flexible work schedules and directed federal agencies to expand flexible work arrangements where possible. He also urged Congress to pass legislation requiring employers to accommodate pregnant employees so they can continue to perform their jobs.

The president personalized the issues by talking about the struggles of his single mother and the challenges that he and his wife, Michelle, had when their children were young, even though they were fortunate to have benefits many workers don't enjoy.

He acknowledged he left Michelle to carry the heaviest child care burdens while he worked and campaigned. He said he's now lucky to "live above the store, so to speak," so he can have dinner with his family most nights, and he points out his daughters were older when he became president. "I never had to meet a world leaders with Cheerios stuck to my pants," he joked.

The summit has been months in the making, with several regional events leading up to it featuring administration officials. The White House devoted all its star power to the event - and even a surprise appearance by a celebrity to echo Obama's criticism of "Mad Men" policies in today's workplace. Christina Hendricks, who plays single mom Joan on the AMC dramatization of a 1960s ad firm, said, "In the 21st Century the only place for a story like Joan's should be on TV."

Obama took four working parents for lunch at a Chipotle up the street, telling them he was interested in hearing their stories and "comparing notes," then later met with business leaders with family-friendly policies. Mrs. Obama planned to deliver a closing speech, while Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill opened the event by talking about the value of family time.

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al pambuena June 23 2014 at 6:10 PM

so while our borders are being invaded by thousands of illegals...that are being shuttled all over the country....Obama talks about maternity leave??? like why in the hell is the government involved in this....? that's up to the companies...not the government. another democrat scam to but some more blame on the republicans before the midterm elections...and people swallow the kool aid. most people today cannot afford to have a kid, especially when they are struggling financially (thanks to Obama).....

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5 replies
plewdawg June 23 2014 at 5:32 PM

Why not? Them fast food illiterates with no future will need something else when thye start having them welfare babies. This guy is a joke.

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3 replies
Michelle Neff June 23 2014 at 5:27 PM

Why? I guess familes are not resposilbe for thier own any more? My dad took pride in seeing we had what we needed , and Mom didnt need a paid day off in face her job was us. Dad saw to it he took very good care of his family! How about rasing Dads pay so Mom can raise the kids? Oh that right today Gay is in No Mom homes and no Kids either Gosh its great to be getting old and know i wont have to see the out come of all that.

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5 replies
Mike Jones June 23 2014 at 6:09 PM

Of course "Rosa DeLauro" is for the US taxpayer paying for her Hispanic relatives having maternity leave. Lets see....whites are 69% of the population but over half of the babies being born are non white. haha OF COURSE she wants to dip into SS. You might as well just send your paycheck to Central or South America.
As for Obama, he says we're the only developed country that doesn't offer it? Well while you're at it Obama....we're also just about the only developed country that hasn't ended birthright citizenship like all of Europe has. Funny how he fails to mention that. Obama makes Carter look like Einstein.

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1 reply
jomart0911 Mike Jones June 23 2014 at 8:25 PM

For correction purposes, Rosa DeLauro is of Italian descent. She is not Hispanic. I do agree with you as far as this issue.

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kate June 23 2014 at 6:36 PM

So, one week we talk wage gaps between men and women, then the next week we talk about needing better maternity leave policies.

If you google the negatives of family leave in europe, you will find the women who take the long, paid time off take a big hit in advancement, and salary increases. Obviously, that's no surprise to most, but many assume it won't be an issue. Can't have it both ways.

Does anyone think that with large maternity leave packages that companies might think twice before hiring a woman in that age range, especially a married one?

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6 replies
plewdawg June 23 2014 at 5:34 PM

I can hear the doors of more businesses closing, downsizing or eliminating employee positions AND the owners going to another friendlier country.

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1 reply
gretchen_reynolds plewdawg June 23 2014 at 8:47 PM

I can hear the business owners screaming and threatening and then realizing that sometimes a benefit is a benefit.

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2 replies
William gretchen_reynolds June 23 2014 at 11:37 PM

Sometimes, believe it or not, people actually have to earn what they have. Maybe if the POTUS didn't hand out entitlements like candy he would understand that.

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Rich gretchen_reynolds June 24 2014 at 9:39 AM

But a benefit that isn't earned is an entitlement. And we all pay for entitlements....

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lklex June 23 2014 at 6:09 PM

If nothing else, Barack Obama is consistent -- always focusing on, and pandering shamelessly to, women voters. What about paternity leave Mr. Obama? What about a White House Council on Men and Boys, like the White House Council on Women and Girls? What about a federal office on men's health, like the offices on women's health at NIH, the CDC, the FDA and HHS? What about a Men's Bureau at the U.S. DOL to help promote safe working environments for male Americans (who account for 92% of America's workplace fatalities) like the Women's Bureau? What about INCLUDING women in compulsory Selective Service registration -- requiring women 18 -25 to register their bodies for a potential military draft (or face five years in prison and loss of federal funding for noncompliance)? There Mr. Obama goes again, sacrificing the Fourteenth Amendment's principle of "equal protection of the laws" on the altar of political expediency/political correctness, while genuflecting before the goddess of feminism.

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2 replies
hdhighrider77 lklex June 23 2014 at 6:34 PM

We need to put another well fed white male back in the house!! Woo hoo! Whose with me!

And I'm not being sarcastic!

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1 reply
gretchen_reynolds hdhighrider77 June 23 2014 at 8:32 PM

But you are being racist.

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corvettelover199 lklex June 23 2014 at 10:05 PM

Everywhere i look I see a war on men by the democrats.

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Sandra June 23 2014 at 5:22 PM

I remember a staff member (from Poland) stating that they get 6 months paid off for maternity care. I wanted to tell her that she should be so thankful for all of the blessing for just being an American and all the "perks" she has received being here. I survived without pay (psssst...it's called saving)!

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3 replies
kentblackdog June 23 2014 at 5:43 PM

Buying votes for the Dems, pure and simple---------------------hith EVERYONE paying the bill

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2 replies
tygrrrress kentblackdog June 23 2014 at 6:24 PM

No, only those of us that actually work for a living pay the bills. The rest have their hands out for this kind of garbage.

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stephanie kentblackdog June 23 2014 at 7:29 PM

Tygrrress - call me, Captain Obvious, but you have to work to get maternity leave or else it isn't maternity leave.

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1 reply
STAN stephanie June 24 2014 at 5:41 AM

I can see the scams comming already.

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jandtsalesinc June 23 2014 at 6:57 PM

Has anybody told this clown the country is in debt up to our ass! When he was elected he talked about redistribution of wealth. And he said he's not a socialist !!

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2 replies
bbnpl4545 jandtsalesinc June 23 2014 at 7:19 PM

He is a Liar, Try telling that to his sheep.

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gretchen_reynolds jandtsalesinc June 23 2014 at 9:06 PM

I thought we were the richest and best country in the world...

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1 reply
thejrd gretchen_reynolds June 23 2014 at 10:08 PM

We are gretchen becaue we don't follow the ecnomic policies that France has. We add all the socialist polices France has and we will be in the same economic shape.

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