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  • U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during the press conference in the Queens borough of New York City.

    U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during the press conference in the Queens borough of New York City. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 May 2019
Opinion

"If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms. ... if you see pregnancy, family as a workplace obstacle you’re contributing to the pay gap," AOC tweeted Friday.

Democatic Socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) anounced on Twitter Friday her paid paternal leave office policy—permitting her staff members to take up to three months of paid leave.

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"Paid parental leave applies to ALL new parents, period. Moms, dads, parents; biological or adopted. If you’ve got a new child, you get 12 weeks to spend adjusting your family to this huge transition," Ocasio Cortez tweeted.

AOC said the aim was to create a pro-family workplace, especially as three staff are expectant or new parents in the first 6 months of her first term representing the 14th district of New York.

"Our 12 weeks parental leave is up to the parent on how they want to use that time. They don’t have to take all 12 weeks at once—for example, they can take 5 weeks off and work 2 days a week to transition in; bank 3 weeks for later in the year, etc," she added.

Social media users responded in droves.

"This is how it should be everywhere, no matter what the job is, and no matter who the employer may be," one Twitter user wrote, while others accused the congresswoman of using taxpayer dollars to fund the paid paternal leave policy, many stressing that small businesses in the country do not have the same ability.

The United States is the only economically developed nations without federal/national paid maternity or parental leave. 

Some states offer up to six weeks of disability payments to mothers during late pregnancy, birth and recovery. Those with more progressive policies on the issue, like California, New York and New Jersey, offer six weeks of paid family leave, but that's it, according to Canandian newspaper, The Star. 

"In Canada the standard is one year," Twitter user Graham Whiting wrote. "Just for those of you who think 3 months is generous. The idea of leaving a 3 month old baby in daycare because you have to return to work is kind of barbaric, and I imagine has lasting impacts on society that are difficult to measure."

Another user corrected Whiting that the Canadian policy had changed to 18 months. In other countries, like Sweden, paid parental leave lasts up to 480 days, or about 18 months. For 390 of those days, parents get 80 percent of their previous pay which could be a maximum of about $4,500 per month, The Star reported.

Others on twitter called the freshman congressmember a "working class hero" and, one of the "ONLY things giving me hope that our country can turn around."

In a string of tweets detailing her vision, AOC added that the issue is not just about families but about the wage gap between men and women.

"If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms, you’re contributing to the pay gap. If you see pregnancy or family as a workplace obstacle, you’re contributing to the pay gap." she wrote.

"Additionally, paying a living min wage to our most junior staffers means they’re talented and capable (no 2nd job) to take over big-time situations, meaning senior staffers are confident enough in them to take parental leave and not feel like everything will fall apart."

Since 2013 the Democratic Party-sponsored FAMILY Act has been debated in Congress but hasn't been passed. The measure would provide partial paid leave to new moms and dads for up to 12 weeks. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, permits eligible employees (about 12 percent of the working population) up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with a new child or to care for an ill family member. However, it is up to employees to decide how much time applicants will get. 

"Work and family can go together, but we have to break down the barriers that force people to choose between them," AOC wrote.

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