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Federal leave act mandates time, not pay; new Missouri legislation would add wages

Sen. Jill Schupp, at the podium, introduces The Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Program.
Mallory Daily | St. Louis Public Radio intern

Two Democratic legislators from St. Louis County, Rep. Tracy McCreery and Sen. Jill Schupp, are introducing The Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Program. 

President Bill Clinton’s Family and Medical Leave Act has been around for 23 years. And these two legislators think it’s time for a change. 

“You know, there’s a myth out there. … Well, why do we need to do this in Missouri? Don’t we have this federal program that’s been around since 1993? Well, sure, there is a federal program. But, the reason it doesn’t work for today's families is because it's unpaid,” McCreery said.

Around 40 percent of workers in the United States don’t qualify for benefits of the family leave act and many of those who do can’t afford to take unpaid leave, even for a family emergency. This bill intends to alleviate some of those pressures. 

Employees would be required to contribute annually to a fund administered by the Department of Labor. Supporters say this is a small cost -- a person making $50,000 a year would pay $125 annually -- for a big reward.

Then, given such things as the birth of a child or the death of a parent, employees could take up to six weeks of paid leave. 

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri supports the legislators’ bill. Alison Dreith, the organization’s executive director, says the bill will not only expand options for new parents, but for anyone experiencing a family emergency. 

“We having an aging population, especially here in Missouri,” said Dreith. "I have myself in the last 12 months lost my dad and had to go through a lot with taking care of a father and a grandparent at the same time.”

Rep. McCreery says the people want this. A recent survey by the National Partnership for Women and Families showed that 79 percent of voters believed it to be important that the law guarantee access to paid family and medical leave. 

The proposal was announced today in Jefferson City and is not yet scheduled for hearings.


Mallory Daily is an intern at the State Capitol Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. Follow on Twitter: @malreports