Like so many of us living from paycheck to paycheck, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wishes he had a more family-friendly workplace. That’s why, when fellow House Republicans came to him begging him to become speaker, his conditions included the kind of flexibility that workers everywhere yearn for: less travel, more time with his kids, rules that will make it harder for disgruntled co-workers to torpedo him.
Good for Ryan. He doesn’t have to tell Californians how much work-family balance matters. We’ve had paid family leave here for more than a decade.
Here, it’s funded, with great success, by a miniscule, worker-paid surcharge on state disability insurance so businesses don’t suffer. In fact, some lawmakers – hat’s off to you, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara – are trying to expand and improve it. One of the biggest groups of beneficiaries has been dads taking paternity leave.
It’s just too bad Ryan can’t bring himself to support such a program at the federal level. Nationally, workers are guaranteed 12 weeks of family leave to care for sick loved ones and new babies, but it’s unpaid.
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Ryan is lucky. He can negotiate from a position of strength. He’s been asked to take a job that current Speaker John Boehner famously compared to keeping “218 frogs in a wheelbarrow” and Republicans believe, perhaps optimistically, that only Ryan can do it, given their fragmented caucus.
But not everything should be left up to the markets; happy families and healthy home lives benefit everyone in society, including employers. So how about some family time for the rest of us, Mister Speaker-to-be?