Democrats are using Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R) bid to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives to advocate for a plan that requires employers to offer paid family and medical vacation time to all employees. Ryan has told his Republican colleagues in Washington, D.C. that he will be happy to be Speaker so long as he is not expected to spend more time away from his family. As a chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Ryan already puts in long and busy weeks at work.
But Democrats are being hypocritical in their call for the new federal mandate.
At a press conference in Ryan’s congressional district on Monday, a collection of Democratic activists and officials from the local Democratic Party of Racine County and the Democratic National Committee demanded that Ryan give federally-mandated paid family leave an up or down vote in the U.S. House should he become Speaker.
“As the new champion for family rights, including the need for all working men and women to be able to take time from their jobs to care for their loved ones, we look forward to Speaker-elect Paul Ryan’s full support of legislation extending the very same respect for family time to all families as he was extended by his Republican colleagues,” declared Meg Andrietsch, a local Democratic Party official, according to the Racine Journal Times.
Conspicuously missing from the Democrats rhetoric and subsequent media coverage, however, was the fact that in the Democrat-controlled City of Milwaukee, government employees don’t have a paid family and medical leave program.
Democrats have not rallied in Milwaukee in protest on behalf of city workers.
According to employee benefit information posted on the City of Milwaukee website, city workers are entitled to unpaid leave for family and medical events, as is required by both state and federal law, but the City does not give those employees any pay for that time off. The benefit information explains that if employees wish to use accrued paid leave, such as comp time or vacation time or even sick days, as a substitute for family and medical leave, they are allowed to do so. The City itself, however, does not pay employees of family and medical leave.
The Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act applies to employers with more than 50 full-time employees, according to the state Department of Workforce Development, and requires unpaid leave time of between 2 and 6 weeks, depending on the situation and circumstance. A U.S. Department of Labor guide to family and medical leave posted to the City of Milwaukee employee benefits website also notes that such leave is unpaid, even though employers of a certain size are required to allow for it.
Wisconsin Statute 103.10(5)(a) clarifies that while employees are entitled to time off for family and medical situations, “This section does not entitle an employee to receive wages or salary while taking family leave or medical leave.”
When asked about the Democratic National Committee’s family and medical leave program, spokesperson TJ Helmstetter was tight-lipped, only saying that a program is in place but that he was unsure of how exactly the benefit worked. Helmstetter was the one who organized the Monday press conference calling on Ryan to enact a new federal mandate. A list of job openings posted to the DNC’s website makes no mention of a paid family and medical leave program, although several jobs note that applicants should expect to work more than the usual 9-to-5 hours.
Over in the City of Madison, the Mecca of liberalism in Wisconsin, government employees there also do not get paid family and medical leave. The employee handbook for the City of Madison explains that paid sick leave may be used for family or medical purposes, but once that is exhausted, or if the employee has not earned enough sick leave days, they are put on unpaid family and medical leave.
Democrats have long held control over Madison city government.