Ellen Galinsky, president of the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, quizzed spokesmen for both candidates’ campaign organizations recently in a conference call with more than 100 corporate executives and advocates. Transcripts were published today on the Institute’s Web site. [Note: If you have the time, click over to the transcript; it makes for instructive reading.]
The transcripts pose some sharp contrasts. Sen. Obama supports expanding federal mandates for both paid and unpaid leave for employees, a spokeswoman said. He would move to require employers to provide seven paid sick days a year for employees who are ill, or who need to care for a sick family member. He backs expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover more employees, including those at businesses with 25 employees instead of 50, as the current law requires. He’d expand allowable purposes for family leave, including more elder-care duties and children’s school matters. He’d provide some federal funds to encourage more states to mandate paid leave. Sen. Obama also backs setting up a formal process for employees to petition their employers for flexible hours, with employers mandated to at least reply.
Sen. McCain wants to make labor laws more flexible, to allow employers to pay workers for overtime in compensatory time off, rather than money. He advocates creating a bipartisan commission on workplace flexibility, to figure out how to overhaul and update labor and tax laws to promote flexible hours and telecommuting. He wouldn’t back expanding the family-leave law or mandating paid family or sick leave. “Sen. McCain has not been one to issue mandates on what a business would choose to pay” for leave, a spokeswoman said. He does propose to bring down health care costs to give businesses more latitude to provide paid leave if they choose.
Bottom line: The Republican Party is on the side of employers, the Democrats are on the side of parents, especially poor, working- class, and middle-class parents. As if you needed any more reasons to vote for Obama.