This spring witnessed an important string of victories for paid family leave across the country! As we continue to move forward here in Connecticut, exciting progress has also been made in San Francisco, New York State, and the town of Newburgh Heights, Ohio.
In May, the small town of Newburgh Heights in Northeast Ohio passed a record-setting parental-leave law, which gives full-time public employees six months of paid maternity and paternity leave. Six months! This is the most progressive parental leave policy of any municipality in the entire nation. As the town’s mayor, Trevor Elkins, expressed, if a working-class, small town like Newburgh Heights can collectively support and ultimately pass paid leave for its employees, there is no reason others can’t do the same. Newburgh Heights provides a significant example of a progressive policy that truly supports a work-life balance.
On April 5, San Francisco became the first city in the country to approve six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents–including mothers, fathers, and same-sex couples—welcoming the birth or adoption of a child. This is a significant step in the fight for paid leave across the country, as it is the first paid leave policy in the nation to include 100% wage coverage. The law, which is expected to take effect on January 1, 2017, covers companies with 50 or more employees and builds upon the state of California’s existing paid leave program. California provides workers with 55% of their pay during leave; the San Francisco law requires that employers make up the balance of employee pay so that they receive 100% of their wages. 
This historic victory in San Francisco occurred just one day after New York state passed “the most comprehensive and generous paid family leave state law in the country.” It will allow all workers in the state to take up to three months of paid time off per year to bond with a new child, or to care for an ill parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member. The system goes even further than those of California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, by permitting up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Plus, the leave program will cover full-time AND part-time employees, and there will be no exemptions for small businesses.
New York’s policy, signed into law by Governor Cuomo, will be phased in gradually beginning in 2018. By 2021, workers will be able to take 12 weeks and receive 67% of the worker’s average weekly wage, capped to 67% of the statewide average weekly wage. Workers will be eligible for benefits once they have worked for their employer for six months. In addition, this victory won’t be paid by businesses, as it will be financed by small paycheck deductions.
This victory in New York, in particular, has been hailed a “game changer” by Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center. Bakst argues that the new paid leave policy will “create tremendous momentum and fuel these state campaigns, and ultimately movement in Congress.” Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, also verbalized hopes that New York’s legislation will give a boost to efforts to win passage of paid family leave in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and here in Connecticut.
This streak of victories and public advocacy across the country highlight the need for a system of paid leave. Support for paid leave on all levels, from small towns to big cities and prominent states, signals that paid leave legislation is necessary, beneficial, and long overdue.
Is Connecticut next? We must work to build on the momentum of these victories to continue to push for a system of paid leave here in our state! With your help, the Campaign can continue to make even more progress.
Support the Campaign for Paid Family Leave here in Connecticut by snapping a selfie or submitting your own experience, with or without paid leave, to our Story Bank. Learn more here: https://paidfamilyleavect.org/what-you-can-do/.
Erin Dunn is a Policy Intern with the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, entering her junior year at the University of Connecticut.