Should the city pay for its employees to have parental leave?

Sometimes the comments under a news story are just as illuminating as the story itself. You probably heard that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Jean Godden proposed a plan to offer city employees with a new child up to four weeks of paid parental leave. 

Take a look at the comments in this Seattle Times story about this issue. A number of commenters seem absolutely incensed by the idea of their tax dollars used for such a purpose. Writes one top commenter, “Have children if you like, but do it on your own dime!” 

What’s striking about this sentiment is perhaps how differently we think about this issue than other countries. The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t ensure paid maternity leave, and many other countries also offer parental leave for both parents, according to a report released by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors. Just a handful of other cities around the country offer paid parental leave, including San Francisco and Chicago.

The Family and Medical Leave Act ensures up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth and family illnesses. But that doesn’t apply to everyone. Exceptions, such as not working enough hours or working for a small company, keep many people from taking advantage of it. Not to mention the fact that struggling families might not be able to afford to take unpaid leave.

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