On Sunday, people around the country will be finding a way to show our fathers what an important role they play in our lives. So it’s ironic that this week Congress missed a chance to show the American people that it understands that dads—and moms, too—deserve policies to help them meet work and family needs. This opportunity came when the Work-Life Balance Award Act was considered under the suspension of the rules (which requires at least a two-thirds vote for passage). This bill was supported by advocacy groups as well as business groups. Unfortunately, although some sensible Republicans crossed the aisle to support the legislation, the Republican Study Committee encouraged its members to vote “no” and the legislation failed in a 249 to 163 vote.
The need for policies that help workers meet their obligations on the job and at home is very much on the minds of all of us these days. We’re glad to see that this conversation is happening at the very highest levels: this past Spring, some of our nation’s highest profile parents, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, called together advocates, businesses and experts to talk about the need for flexible workplace policies. The Work-Life Balance Award Act, championed by Rep. Lynn Woolsey and Rep. George Miller, would have been another important step in furthering the conversation. The bill would simply have allowed public recognition for model employers with good family-friendly policies. Such recognition, we hoped, would spur other companies to follow their example.
The failure of this straightforward bill may be in part the result of partisan posturing, but it’s unfortunate that many of our nation’s lawmakers are making light of the colossal shifts in America’s workplaces and the vital role work-family policies play in Americans’ economic well-being. In a time when most families have two parents at work, and where many families are living paycheck to paycheck, policies like paid sick days and paid family leave, which allow workers to meet their family responsibilities without risking jobs or pay, are more important than ever. This modest bill wouldn’t have delivered those things, but it would have at least recognized employers who understand these needs and have already adopted policies to help their workers meet these challenges.
As work-and-family advocates, we supported the Work-Life Balance Award Act and the chance it provided to demonstrate the importance of strong workplace policies. It is too bad that Congress rejected this opportunity. Going forward, we hope that every Member of Congress will put working families before partisan politics. It is past time for workplace laws to honor workers’ commitments, both at home and at work.