U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, joined by local business owner Peter Frigeri and Randi Lampert with the Nevada chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, speaks during a “Paid Leave for All” bus tour event in Las Vegas Thursday. (Photo: Michael Lyle)
Requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave was one of the many priorities laid out by Senate Democrats this week in a $3.5 trillion budget resolution framework.
Speaking Thursday at the “Paid Leave for All” national bus tour, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus called it “an investment in human infrastructure,” and just as important as adopting the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate and includes $1.1 trillion for roads, bridges and airports.
“Whether it will be the $3.5 trillion or something other than that, there are key things we have to push for: some of the environmental issues, the PRO Act for labor, paid leave; those are policy things we have to figure out how to get in that reconciliation,” Titus said. “If other things fall by the wayside those are key things to keep in there.”
During the press conference, she said “nobody should have to choose between staying safe, protecting their children and getting a paycheck so they can put food on the table.”
The Senate package includes investments in climate change infrastructure, creating more affordable and public housing, universal pre-K and tuition-free community college.
While the bill includes priorities of President Joe Biden, passing the package, which will need to be passed through the reconciliation process to bypass a potential filibuster since it’s most likely not going to receive any Republican support, is expected to face an uphill battle.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a key vote in order for the budget to pass, balked at the cost of expanding the social safety net, and other more moderate Democrats in the House, including Nevada’s Susie Lee, have pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take up the infrastructure bill separate from the budget resolution.
“Speaker Pelosi and many of us in the house have said we want the two to go together,” Titus said in an interview. “So the second bill, the reconciliation, (U.S. Sen Joe) Manchin and (U.S. Sen. Kyrsten) Sinema voted to move it forward and they need to go together.”
Lee was among nine moderate House members signing a letter last month urging Pelosi to pass the Senate-approved infrastructure bill as soon as possible rather than wait to partner it with the reconciliation legislation. The New York Times reported Friday that a few of those same House members — but not Lee — were among those sending a letter to Pelosi Thursday explicitly calling for the House “to follow the same path as the Senate,” vote on the infrastructure bill first, “and then consider the budget resolution.”
“A few members … say go ahead and push the infrastructure without this other piece,” Titus said in Las Vegas Thursday. “But most of us feel the investment in infrastructure is physical and human and they have to go together. I will certainly take that position.”
To put pressure on elected officials to adopt a federal policy, the Paid Leave for All tour is traveling across the country speaking with community organizers and businesses.
During a stop in Las Vegas Thursday, Paid Leave for All’s Director Dawn Huckelbridge called the inclusion of paid family leave in the budget framework “a once-in-a-generation opportunity right now” to have the country catch up to the rest of the world “and do something meaningful for every working family in this country.”
“Right now we are still one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee any form of paid leave for its workers, and that was a crisis long before Covid,” she said. “This pandemic has shown us just how important paid leave is to keep us in our jobs, make sure none of us has to choose between our families and our paycheck or between our health and our work.”
Dr. Randi Lampert with the Nevada Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who also spoke Thursday, called paid leave a public health issue and enacting something on a federal level “will generate substantial health benefits.”
The lack of paid leave, she added, disproportionately impacts women of color.
“Only 41 percent of Black women and 33 percent of hispanic women have paid leave,” she said. “A combination of our state’s demographics and the nature of employment in the hospitality industry puts Nevada’s children and their family at a much higher risk of compounding negative impacts of not having paid leave for all.”
In 2019, Nevada lawmakers passed a paid leave bill that required businesses with 50 or more employees to allow employees to accrue .019230 hours of paid time off per hour of work performed — 40 hours a year for full-time workers.
“The lack of access to paid leave also leads to higher costs of unemployment, hospitalization and health care, which our state and country simply cannot afford at this time,” said Jim Sullivan, the political director for the Culinary Union. “Our state legislators have made progress to ensure more Nevadans have access to paid leave in the past few legislative sessions, but we need a national policy to fully protect all workers.”
When asked if a national paid leave could have a carve out for small businesses, Titus said she didn’t know if the final package could have a similar provision but added “we shouldn’t start negotiating until we make a strong push for everybody.”
Lampert said small businesses have talked about the importance of having a federal policy.
“We’ve done polling for years and consistently more than two-thirds of small business owners are asking for a national paid leave policy,” she said.
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