The Star-Ledger

Six Weeks' Paid Family Leave Gains

New Jersey's business community not in support of committee's decision

The Star-Ledger — Friday, February 29, 2008

Star-Ledger Staff

The Assembly Labor Committee yesterday approved a bill to allow workers to take up to six paid weeks off to care for sick family members or newborn or newly adopted children.

The bill (A-873), sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Gloucester), would allow workers to take leave paid for through a payroll deduction estimated at about $33 per year. Workers would get two-thirds of their salary, up to a maximum of $502 per week.

"This is something that just needs to be done," Albano said. "This is something morally right to do for the people that we represent in the state of New Jersey."

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said the bill was 12 years in the making and will help working families.

"I've heard testimony from critics who argue that they cannot afford to provide this type of leave time for their employees, but I say that we cannot afford not to," Sweeney said.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association President Philip Kirschner noted a report released Wednesday that showed employment growth at a virtual standstill in the state, expanding by a mere 3,700 jobs, or just one-tenth of one percent in 2007.

"There could be no better symbol of this disconnection from economic reality than the fact that the Assembly Labor Committee today is taking up a bill that would make New Jersey only the second state in the nation to impose a paid-family-leave mandate on all employers," Kirschner said.

Peg Kinsell of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, which advocates with families whose children are at risk because of disability, poverty and a variety of other reasons, told of a friend whose son was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"She could only afford to stay out for four weeks," Kinsell said. "By the sixth week she had to go back to work because none of the utilities bills were paid and she had the rest of the family that had to eat. Her co-workers took up a collection too, but it just wasn't enough. She had to leave her 19-year-old son home with a hospice worker and go back to her job in a cafeteria."

John Galandak, president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, said the eligibility requirements for paid family leave would differ from those in other leave programs, creating confusion for the state's employers.

"Employees routinely negotiate for benefits such as additional vacation time, contributions to 401(k) plans, daycare and flexible work schedules," Galandak said. "A paid leave benefit should come from the bargaining table, not the State House."

The committee approved the bill 6-2. The Senate version will be voted on by the full Senate on Monday.

Top Top | NJCA in the News | NJCA Homepage