It was Mother’s Day on Sunday, so it’s probably not really surprising that Hillary Clinton released a video about her mother (and daughter and granddaughter). But, set against the birth of her granddaughter, she also briefly retells a story about a nurse who said, “Thank you for fighting for paid family leave.” Is it just political posturing, or can we finally hope for some resolution to the shameful state of family leave in the U.S.?
(Photo Credit: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley | Wikipedia)
Love Hillary or hate her, the video is likely to hit a few hot buttons. On the one hand, some people are annoyed because she’s using her family for another political video, and she’s turning Mother’s Day to her political gain. But, on the other hand, there’s the possibility that this is the best (and perhaps only) way we’ll ever have a real conversation about the Family Medical Leave Act and working women.
Clinton’s statement – “It’s outrageous that America is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave” – potentially packs more punch than when a man talks about maternity leave. (Even if you’re among those who were excited to hear President Obama say that he wants to extend the benefit to all American workers.)
1. The U.S. ranking worldwide is abysmal.
While many workers are guaranteed unpaid leave by the Family and Medical Leave Act, the U.S. has no federally mandated paid leave for new parents or workers who need to care for family members. In fact, America routinely ranks among the worst countries for maternity leave.
2. It’s not just about maternity leave.
Perhaps it really is about softening Clinton’s image, to mention her FMLA story against the backdrop of her granddaughter’s birth, but the reality of unpaid leave ranges much farther. It affects all working women, not just mothers. But, of course, it does present a dramatic image, when you imagine a young mother (represented by the photos in Clinton’s video) who must go back to work, and leave her newborn in the arms of another.
3. It’s a throwback.
While Clinton didn’t mention it in her quick Mother’s Day video, it was (former) President Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton’s husband) who first signed the Family and Medical Leave Act. In Politico, Bill Clinton says, “There are few greater joys for me as a private citizen than seeing the impact the FMLA has had on hardworking Americans over the last 20 years.”
4. It affects us all.
Whether it’s about women who are forced to return to work right after giving birth, or women who go to work when they’re sick, we’ve all been affected by the realities of unpaid leave.
This new “fight like a woman” stance is interesting, even refreshing, not because Hillary Clinton is using it, but because we desperately want these important issues to see the light of day.
Is Hillary Clinton using working women, just as she used her family pictures and the mention of her granddaughter’s birth, for her own political gain? Maybe it doesn’t matter. If it means we can get more humane leave policies for working families, I’m OK with it.
Use our stories. Talk about FMLA. Talk about the gender wage gap. Talk about poverty and the working woman. Just TALK! Use that voice. Make the candidacy a pulpit for speaking about change for working women – the kind of change we’ve not dared to hope for.
Tell Us What You Think
What are your thoughts about Hillary Clinton (and other politicians) talking about the FMLA and other issues of importance to women workers? Does it ever tempt you to become part of the discussion? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.