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Buried on page 10 of my morning newspaper was a brief article stating that the Labor Department is seeking public comment about the Family and Medical Leave Act, the federal law that grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a newborn or sick family member, or because the worker herself has a serious health condition.

My MomsRising radar was immediately activated! It is not immediately clear what the Bush administration has planned, but we should create an action to support the FMLA. As one of two main federal laws that grants any kind of family and medical leave, we need to speak up to support not only the FMLA but to insist on even stronger family leave laws.

Initial news coverage has been minimal. Salon.com reports that the Labor Department spokesperson said that "This is meant to be a very objective review.... We're genuinely in search of information and having looked at the issues now for a number of years ... it became apparent we really needed some fresh thinking on this. I am hoping that is what all of this will yield."

The first reaction from Debra Ness, President of the National Parnership for Women & Families, was to be wary of possible weakening:

"Ness does not want to see sweeping changes 'that could seriously undermine the protections that people now have, and our worry is that this is a step toward doing that.'"

Let's make sure the Labor Department hears from MomsRising supporters. We have until February 2 to submit comments, which gives us time to come up with a coordinated action. This could be a perfect opportunity to work in partnership with other labor and caregiving supporters. The FMLA impacts anyone who needs care as well as anyone who gives it. The National Family Caregivers Association reports that each year more than 50 million people provide caregiving for a family member or friend. Perhaps we can join forces with them and the 33 million members of the AARP to let the Labor Department know that if they want "fresh thinking" on the FLMA, it had better be to strengthen it.

As caregivers and Mothers, we must not settle for crumbs, as one of the only 4 countries in the world that offers no national maternity-leave program: Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guninea, and the United States.


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