Work & Life Podcast

Wharton School of Business

Work & Life Podcast with Stew Friedman

This week Stew speaks with three guests who are all advocates of paid family leave: Ellen Bravo, Washington State Republican Senator Joe Fain, and Hawaii Democratic State Representative Kaniela Ing. Ellen Bravo is a founding director of Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 27 states working for policies such as paid sick days and family and medical leave insurance. Before that, Ellen was director of 9to5, an organization improving working conditions and ensuring the rights of women. She has written several non-fiction books, including Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation. Ellen served on the bipartisan Commission on Leave appointed by Congress to study the impact of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Among her commendations are a Ford Foundation Visionary award and, like Stew, she’s been honored with the Families and Work Institute Work-Life Legacy Award.

Republican Senator Joe Fain of Washington State has an MBA and an undergraduate degree in Political Science. He’s been in the Senate since 2010 and has been both the Minority and Majority floor leader. Joe was the prime sponsor of the landmark legislation to create a statewide paid family and medical leave program by convening a bipartisan group of lawmakers and business and labor leaders.

Representative Kaniela Ing, Democratic Representative from Hawaii has been fighting for working families he was a child in one. He’s been serving in the state legislature since he was 23 and he’s now running for Congress. The birth of his first child has brought the particular issue of paid family leave to the fore for him.

Stew and Ellen discuss the accelerating pace of states enacting paid family leave laws and other legislative victories as well as Ky Dickens’ great new film, Zero Weeks, which is winning all sorts of awards. The film features six subjects with zero weeks of paid leave who need that support to care for themselves or loved ones with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, to care for their parents, as well as to care for their new children. It is a powerful warning about the cost of doing nothing to help us become a nation that truly cares for working families.

Ellen encourages everyone to visit the Family Values @ Work site to learn about what is going on in their state and local area and find ways to get involved and make their voices heard. They discuss how this is no longer a “women’s issue” as millennial dad’s are demanding to be involved at home. And it’s not simply a parental leave issue, as single people also need leave for themselves and to care for loved ones and as empty nesters, a growing portion of the population, are caring for aging parents and others. Paid family leave affects everyone. Stew and Ellen also talk about how this policy helps small business owners compete with larger corporations and how it is affordably funded.

Senator Fain and Representative Ing share their compelling stories of becoming dads for the first time and the ways in which they’ve worked across the political aisle to build coalitions of support for a policy that affects everyone, benefits everyone, is good for business, and is not costly.