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Obama to Propose Paid Sick Leave for American Workers

Gregory Korte, USA Today

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Jan. 15, 2015

resident Obama will call on Congress to require companies to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave a year, a senior adviser said Wednesday.

Obama will also take executive action to give at least six weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child, Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett said.

And Obama wants Congress to spend $2.2 billion to help states and cities develop paid family leave programs.

Jarrett announced the new initiatives in a post on the job networking site LinkedIn -- a venue chosen, she said, because its audience was best positioned to drive change in their own workplaces.<

"As our workforce and our families have continued to evolve over time. too many of our workplaces have failed to keep pace," Jarrett told reporters.

Obama, who will travel to Baltimore tomorrow and return to Washington for dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron, will make the proposal at a roundtable with working women Thursday.

Obama will grant paid leave to employees of the executive branch through a presidential memorandum, a tool similar to an executive order used to direct federal agencies to implement a White House policy. The program will work by advancing unearned sick time to federal employees, and will cost $250 million a year to implement, Jarrett said. Obama will also call on Congress to do the same for its employees.

The legislative proposal is modeled on a bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Their proposal would apply to companies that employ at least 15 workers. Employees at those companies would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours of paid sick time a year.

DeLauro, who first introduced that bill in 2005 with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., applauded Obama's proposal.

"Workplaces need to respond to the reality of family life in the 21st century, and allowing employees to have seven sick days a year is a bare minimum," she said. "The fact that the United States is one of just a handful of countries that does not require paid family or sick leave is nothing short of shameful."

A spokesman for House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., said he would withhold comment until the president makes his proposal.

Betsy Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the paid leave makes economic sense by helping companies retain workers and boost productivity. "Study after study finds that these policies are good for children, workers and employers," she said. "We need to follow the lead of other industrialized countries and make sure all workers have these protections."