REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Paid Family Leave Bill Signing Remarks
Friday, August 9, 2019
I’m so proud to be here with you today to sign Oregon’s paid family leave bill into law.
I have been working on this issue in some form or another for my entire public service career. As an advocate for women and families, I worked on Oregon’s family leave policy, which Governor Barbara Roberts signed into law in 1991. It became one of the country’s first and most progressive policies.
I knew it was a step in the right direction, but the harsh reality is that struggling families couldn’t take advantage of it. We all knew we needed more.
When Oregon tried again, I watched in 2007 as the legislation died on the Senate floor, one vote short.
So it’s incredibly gratifying, over twenty-five years later, to be here for this enormous milestone. There are so many here today who played a role.
Thank you to Senators Taylor and Knopp. Thank you to Representatives Williamson, Bonham, and Alonso Leon for your critical leadership.
We would not be here but for the extraordinary roles that Speaker Kotek and Sandy McDonough of OBI played.
I also want to recognize the tireless advocacy from a robust coalition of more than thirty worker and community groups, led by Andrea Paluso and her team at Family Forward Oregon, including:
- Main Street Alliance
- NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon*
- Oregon AFL-CIO
- OEA (teachers)*
- Oregon Health Equity Alliance *
- Oregon Latino Health Coalition
- ONA (nurses)*
- OSFFC (firefighters)
- Planned Parenthood
You did it. We did it.
We did it for a mother whose 7-year-old son had to have emergency brain surgery. She was fired from her job when she called to tell them she couldn’t come in to work that day.
We did it for the countless Oregonians who are caring for older family members, oftentimes while balancing caring for young children and working jobs outside the home.
We did it for people like a member of my staff, who took a significant financial hit to provide childcare for his newborn daughter. He is a state employee and his husband is a librarian at a private college (which shall remain nameless) that has a half-billion dollar endowment.
This famously-liberal college offers paid leave for parenting faculty, but not for members of its staff. That is, its administrative assistants, custodial staff, and — that’s right — its librarians. This college decided that its lowest-paid employees were best suited to bear the financial burden of caring for newborn children.
In short, we passed this bill because Oregon families are counting on us.
They are counting on us so they don’t have to make a choice between paying the rent and staying home with their newborn.
They are counting on us so that they don’t have to make choices between chemotherapy and keeping food on the table.
And now, they won’t have to make those difficult choices.
I think that it’s absurd that our society values someone clocking in and out at their job above holding a loved one’s hand. That will change under House Bill 2005, where all families who need and care for each other will be recognized.
This legislation allows workers to put their families first — where they belong. Every family in Oregon needs this protection, and that’s the beauty of HB 2005.
Everyone will benefit, but especially our low-income families, farm workers, part-time workers — in short, the ones who need it most.
This law covers more than just births and deaths, recognizing that there’s a whole spectrum of times you need family by your side outside of the opening and closing of a life. And it’s inclusive of families of all shapes and sizes: foster and adoptive parents, same-sex couples, families who don’t live together and chosen families.
In short, this law will allow families, however they are composed, to care for each other in times of need.
But the harsh reality is, we’re behind as a nation on this.
The fact remains that Germany passed paid maternity leave in not 2003, not 1983, but 1883!
The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave to working mothers. Three out of four dads take less than one week of leave after the birth of a new child. In fact, nearly 60 percent of low-income fathers take zero weeks of paid leave.
Families deserve to have time to love and care for each other.
I’m proud that Oregon can be a leader among states. In fact, the Huffington Post called it “the best family leave law in the U.S.” We’ve shown other states that advocates can come together with the business community to push forward a policy that benefits every family.
We’re on our way. Let’s sign the bill, shall we?