The American Families Plan and the Labor Movement: Putting Working Families First
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President Joseph Biden’s key legislative proposals demonstrate his commitment to investing in workers and their families to rebuild the economy after the pandemic.
He first proposed the American Jobs Plan which puts workers and jobs at the heart of economic recovery. Biden then introduced the American Families Plan which advocates investing in children and families to “grow the middle class, expand the benefits of economic growth to all Americans, and leave the United States more competitive.”
“This proposal recognizes a fundamental truth,” writes Colin Seeberger, director of media relations at American Progress. “America’s economic growth and competitiveness is inextricably tied to its families’ ability to thrive.”
This is why family has been at the heart of the labor movement’s efforts to improve the working lives of Americans and build a stronger middle class. By addressing these key issues, the American Families Plan would advance the efforts made by unions and labor allies to position workers and families as the backbone of the American economy.
National Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a gaping hole in employee benefits in the U.S. — the lack of paid family and medical leave. The American Families Plan seeks to establish a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy that would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave by year 10 of the program and three days of bereavement leave per year beginning in the first year.
It’s a benefit labor leaders have long fought for. “No one should have to choose between their paycheck and caring for their family,” asserts the American Federation of Government Employees in a report on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on paid family leave.
Expanded Access to Affordable Healthcare
Another key benefit for working families is healthcare, but millions of workers can’t afford it. The American Families Plan includes a provision to extend the expanded Affordable Care Act tax credits originally offered in the American Rescue Plan. This would make healthcare more affordable for more families, which would meet a key union goal.
“Too many people do not have health insurance,” notes the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “Medical care and prescription drug prices are too high, which drives up the cost of health insurance and sticks working people and retirees with exorbitant deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.”
Affordable Child Care for Low- and Middle-Income Families
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated America’s child care problems created by soaring child care costs, diminishing supply to meet the growing demand for child care, and a struggling child care provider economy, writes Jillian McGrath, former economic policy advisor at national think tank Third Way.
“Child care in America was a massive problem before the pandemic—now it’s a deep crisis”, she says.
The American Families Plan seeks to address these problems so working parents can afford quality child care. Ultimately, low- and middle-income families with children under the age of five would have to pay no more than seven percent of their income on child care, which is the threshold for affordable child care according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Plan also calls for universal preschool for three- and four-year olds as a way to not only make child care affordable but to give children the head start they need to be successful later in life.
Education and Training for the Future Workforce
Industries and employers need skilled workers which is why unions have always invested heavily in worker training and education programs such as apprenticeships, internships, and college degrees.
The American Families Plan seeks to give more workers opportunities for securing a stable job and earning a living wage by guaranteeing two years of free community college, increasing Pell Grant awards for low-income students, and incentivizing colleges to invest in innovative student success programs.
Together with the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan reinforces what labor movement leaders have known all along, that “we must invest in our workers and the middle class, so all of our families succeed now and into the future,” asserts the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers.
As union leaders advocate for the proposal’s passage, a tool like UnionTrack ENGAGE can keep those leaders connected with their members and facilitate communication on progress of the legislation through Congress.
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