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Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Issue of the Week: The ‘Heartless’ Changes to Family and Medical Leave Act

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Think that you’re safe from Republican attacks on workers simply because you’re not a public employee?

Think again.

Walker and his fellow Republicans are attempting to weaken the state’s very popular Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which would affect all workers in the state. That’s why the governor received a “heartless” award on Valentine’s Day from 9to5: National Association of Working Women.

Although Republicans are trying to pitch the legislation as a trade-off between federal and state FMLA provisions, their pending bill would actually decrease protections for workers who are caring for sick relatives, newborns or adopted children.

While Wisconsin currently allows workers to choose to use their paid vacation time for care-giving leave, Republican legislators want to allow the employer to make that decision. Republicans would only allow intermittent leave for some types of care-giving reasons. That would hurt workers with loved ones with chronic illnesses who need help in short periods of time during the course of a year. And the Republican-backed bill would also penalize part-time workers who take time off to care for a loved one. Wisconsin currently allows workers to be eligible for FMLA coverage if they had worked 1,000 hours in the previous year. That covers part-time employees who work 20 hours a week. But Republicans would bump that up to 1,250 hours worked in the previous year, or 25 hours per week. If you work fewer hours, you’re out of luck when your loved one gets sick.

Republicans shouldn’t make life more difficult for already stressed-out workers who are taking on the challenge of caring for a loved one or new child. Their changes are heartless, indeed.

Heroes of the Week

La Casa de Esperanza Volunteers

In 1966, a small group of church members founded La Casa de Esperanza (410 Arcadian Ave., Waukesha) to make a positive change in the community by creating services for migrant workers who had difficulty assimilating due to substandard housing and a lack of bilingual educational opportunities.

With an emphasis on the Hispanic population, La Casa de Esperanza continues to help low-income individuals achieve full social and economic participation in society. The nonprofit offers a myriad of programs, including a health counseling clinic, youth activities, political advocacy, family self-sufficiency services, a child-care center, career assistance and a housing complex for low-income seniors. All of these programs rely on the commitment of volunteers.

Readers who wish to help La Casa de Esperanza with tutoring, mentoring or outreach work are encouraged to call 262-832-1550 or visit www.lacasadeesperanza.org.

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