Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a proposal to increase the amount of paid family leave for working parents in San Francisco. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

EDITORIAL: Full family leave should be priority in SF

Next week San Francisco could become the first city in the U.S. to require employers to offer six weeks of fully-paid leave for working parents by supplementing the state’s partial benefit. This week, the gloves came off as business owners called on city supervisors to reject the proposal, claiming such a burden would be too much to take on.

As the Small Business Commission on Monday overwhelmingly urged a no vote on the legislation, commissioner Stephen Adams was quoted in these pages saying, “Enough is enough is enough. This is bad for small business.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener’s Paid Parental Leave for Bonding with New Child legislation would require businesses with 20 or more workers to contribute 45 percent of an employee’s salary for up to six weeks of leave — augmenting the 55 percent currently provided by the State of California — so San Francisco parents receive a full salary during a leave with a newborn or newly adopted
child.

Wiener told the San Francisco Examiner, “This is a basic issue of family health.”

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce weighed in on Tuesday, giving Wiener points for adding some concessions to businesses concerns. But still, it wasn’t enough to get the Chamber’s backing. The organization took a neutral stance, saying that while it supported the idea of expanded parental leave, the issue should be addressed at the state or federal level, not on the backs of business
owners.

We agree with that sentiment. Full parental leave should be, without question, provided by the state and federal government. We should not even be having this debate. But that’s not the country we live in, and that’s why Wiener proposed this law and why we should support it. We have an opportunity to at least live in a city that gets why this is such a crucial issue and does something about it. Too many families are faced with the painful equation of taking almost a 50 percent pay reduction to care for and bond with a new child. For too many, it’s no choice at all — they can’t afford the
pay cut.

As Examiner reporter Joshua Sabatini noted this week in his coverage, the U.S. is far behind most other developed nations when it comes to family leave benefits. The good news is that efforts to expand benefits are gaining steam around the nation as more studies emphasize the health benefits of parental bonding. It’s good public policy to make life easier for families, and this law does
this.

Will businesses push off the cost to customers? Yes, probably, and they should. This will only work if we decide as a society it’s OK to pay more for goods and services to ensure that people are treated well and can adequately care for their families.

That’s the kind of city we have a chance to be if the supervisors agree to make San Francisco the first in the nation to allow working parents fully-paid leave.

Michael Howerton is the editor in chief of the San Francisco Examiner.

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