Employees advocates name for broader paid household holidays in Georgia

Workers’ advocates in Georgia are pushing for paid family leave to expand further after lawmakers passed legislation to give state employees up to three weeks off after having a child.

Representatives of several Georgia nonprofits met on Friday to call for a broader paid family and sick leave program that includes up to 12 weeks of vacation for new parents, sick leave for surgery or serious medical treatment, and eligibility to care for a family member on one’s own Child expanded beyond.

A more comprehensive paid vacation program would help improve employee morale in Georgia and curb cases of health complications or deaths due to pregnancy, according to local proponents.

“This is an important first step in the right direction to support working families in Georgia,” said Allison Glass, Georgia Chapter 9to5 Education Coordinator of the 9to5 National Women’s Council, of the recent three-week family vacation legislation for state employees, Governor Brian Kemp incorporated it into law earlier this month.

“[But] Three weeks is not enough time and the vast majority of Georgians are still without paid family or medical needs. … We believe Georgia can lead the way in providing paid vacation to all working Georgians. “

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, received widespread support from state lawmakers and advocates who hailed the move as a boost for local businesses and workers, particularly in the face of the economic struggles caused by COVID-19 in the pandemic last year.

It is estimated that around 246,000 government employees and teachers benefit from it and apply to parents after the birth of their own child, an adopted child, or a nursing internship.

The new Georgia vacation program could be included in President Joe Biden’s legislative package on labor protection and child tax credits called the American Families Plan, in addition to a proposed federal paid family vacation program.

Details of the federal vacation program are still being worked out by Congress, as the proponents noted on Friday. Biden has so far called for a program to be passed that broadens the definition of who can receive paid vacation for workers caring for extended family members and close loved ones who are not blood related.

Local advocates called the Georgian legislation a good start and urged state lawmakers to extend the new vacation program to all workers outside of state employees and teachers, as well as adopt a 12-week leave as the current three weeks leave too little time for new mothers to bond with their infants.

“When parents can devote their time to bond building and increasing interactions after birth, not only are they laying a strong foundation for their child, but they’re also creating the conditions to support the diverse needs of new parenting,” said Kyesha Lindberg, executive director of the Georgia Nonprofit Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies.

Proponents also stressed that an expanded vacation program would particularly benefit members of the Georgian immigrant communities who work in chicken processing plants and would fuel the state’s massive poultry industry.

“Paid vacation is so important to migrant workers,” said Maria Del Rosario Palacios, executive director of the Gainesville-based Georgia Familias Unidas volunteer group. “You can proudly recognize the contribution of so many great immigrants who work 14-hour shifts every day by giving them paid vacation.”