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New Hampshire Wants Paid Family And Medical Leave Yet Only One Gubernatorial Candidate Openly Supports It

Eighty-Two percent (82%):
The percent of Granite Staters who support paid family and medical leave.

In August, the UNH Survey Center and Kristin Smith released a report showing overwhelming support for paid family and medical leave in New Hampshire. The poll showed that eighty-two percent (82%) support paid family and medical leave.  Among Democrats polls showed over ninety-six percent (96%) support the paid leave initiative.  The poll also showed that over sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republicans support paid family and medical leave as well.

medical-leave-support-nh-poll

As with any type of legislation there is always a cost aspect.  Kristin Smith and UNH asked workers directly if they would be willing to pay up to $5 a week to have access to paid family and medical leave, the answer was shocking. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of respondents said they would pay $5 a week to have a family and medical leave insurance program.

Not only do the people of New Hampshire want paid family and medical leave, they are willing to pay for it themselves.

Earlier this year, State Rep Mary Stuart Gile and State Senator Dan Feltes filed legislation to make paid family leave a reality in New Hampshire. Rep. Gile has worked on this issue for almost two decades, including a number of study committees.

“After years of study, it’s time to finally move forward with paid family and medical leave insurance, and Granite Staters of all backgrounds and political affiliations agree – in fact, eighty percent (80%) of Granite Staters agree…. Insuring some short-term wage replacement will allow workers to care for an aging family member, care for a new child, and care for themselves, including getting needed substance misuse treatment,” Rep Gile and Sen Feltes said in a joint statement.

So who is against this type of legislation? You probably already guessed it, the corporate “business community.” The same business community that fights against raising the minimum wage and pushes workers down in the never-ending race to the bottom, to maximize their personal profits.

Nationally, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Chamber of Commerce, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) have all come out against paid family and medical leave but could not say what is bad about the program.

The NFIB tried to confuse people by telling a reporter at The Hill, “You’re paying twice for the same labor.” NFIB is implying that the employer must pay a temp worker to replace the worker they are also paying on medical leave. In reality, the worker is paying into an insurance plan. The insurance plan then pays them when they take extended leave. The employer pays nothing for the worker who is out on leave, so their costs would remain exactly the same.

SHRM spokesperson Lisa Horn told USA Today that “Her organization supports companies offering paid leave generally, but prefers incentives for employers to offer it, rather than require it.”

That sounds great but the fact is, as Fortune Magazine points out, “Only 11 percent of American workers get paid family leave through their employers or state programs.”  This is the same tired “free market” garbage that lobbyists use to convince politicians to vote against raising the minimum wage.

Fortune also pointed out that many of the arguments against providing a paid family and medical leave insurance program are completely bogus.  In California and New Jersey, the insurance program costs workers no more than $30 dollar a year for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.  Forbes noted that in those states with paid leave, ninety-one percent (91%) said “the program has had a positive or no negative effect on profitability and performance.”

It is important to know who is fighting against the will of the people on paid family and medical leave.  This becomes very important when we start looking at the New Hampshire Gubernatorial race.

Colin Van Ostern, the Democratic candidate for Governor, has been outspoken in his support for paid family and medical leave. As an Executive Councilor Van Ostern voted to commission a study to identify “the costs, benefits, alternative models, and public support for family leave policies in New Hampshire, with a goal of identifying the barriers that hold Granite Staters back from fully participating in our economy.”

Van Ostern continued, “As Governor, Colin will work with stakeholders to incorporate the best ideas recommended by this study to advance policies that will help remove existing barriers to workforce participation.”

Chris Sununu has yet to identify his position on paid family and medical leave yet but recently praised his endorsement by the National Federation of Independent Business.

As reported by NHPR: “Bruce Berke, the state director for the business group, cited Sununu’s familiarity with the state’s business climate as a factor in the endorsement.  ‘He knows these issues, he understands their impact, and he has lived these issues as a business owner,’ Berke said.”

In the NHPR article, Casey McDermott specifically cited Sununu’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, another issue supported by eighty-seven (87%) of Americans and seventy-six (76%) of Granite Staters, as one of the policies that NFIB also supports.

Any reasonable person would also expect that Sununu would oppose paid family and medical leave as do his NFIB endorsers.

Again, “Van Ostern says he’d work to raise the minimum wage and promote paid family leave.” Sununu said, “I oppose establishing a state minimum wage” and praises his endorsement from one of the biggest opponents of paid family and medical leave.

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About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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