California Raises Pay Rates for Family Leave

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – The latest in a string of victories for California workers and labor unions was sealed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown after he signed a bill expanding the state’s mandatory paid family leave program.
     Assembly Bill 908 increases the amount of compensation employees can receive for taking family leave from the current 55 percent of their wages to 60 to 70 percent depending on their income.
     California became the first state to enact a paid family program in 2002 and workers are currently entitled to take up to six weeks of paid family leave. The current bill passed the 120-member Legislature 90-22 last month.
     In a signing ceremony, Brown said the bill is an “empathetic” approach to helping low-income workers recover lost wages due to pregnancies or family emergencies.
     “Families should be able to afford time off to take care of a new child or a member of their family who becomes ill,” Brown said in a statement. “This expansion makes sense for employers and employees.”
     The paid family leave extension comes just one week after Brown signed legislation increasing California’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2022. The proposal passed through the Legislature in an unusually hurried process and was signed by Brown one week after being introduced.
     The fourth-term governor signed another labor union-sponsored bill in 2014 that mandated paid sick days for part-time employees.
     The paid family compensation boost will also apply to the state’s disability insurance program and eliminate the current one-week waiting period for claims.
     President Barack Obama said in a statement that the legislation is “great news for California” and that “Congress needs to catch up to California.”
     As long as I am president, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that working Americans have access to this basic security,” Obama said.
     California Democrats also tweeted applause of the passage of AB 908 , including state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara and state Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. Jackson called it “an important step forward for working families,” while de Leon coined the bill as a “major accomplishment.”

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