Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vt.) is redefining "family values" in the landscape of American politics. Now, when it comes to "family values" rhetoric, most of us are probably more accustomed to hearing conservative politicians discuss traditional American family structure, gender roles, and reproductive health. But Sanders has reclaimed the phrase to frame issues facing a broader definition of what constitutes family units in this country.
Here are some of the issues Sanders is tackling:
1. Paid vacations for all workers: Just last week, Sanders introduced a bill into the Senate that would guarantee 10 paid vacation days per year for workers who had been employed in their current positions for at least a year—a proposal that applies to companies that have at least 15 employees. "What family values are about is that at least for two weeks a year, people can come together under a relaxed environment and enjoy the family," Sanders said from the Senate floor. "That is a family value that I want to see happen in this country."
2. Sanders supports paid maternity and paternity leave: Sanders wants to guarantee 12 paid weeks of maternity leave to all new parents. This is great news for new parents, considering the U.S. currently ranks as the worst industrialized nation when it comes to guaranteeing pay to new mothers during their leave. While parents are currently guaranteed 12 weeks off under current the Family and Medical Leave Act, their employers aren't responsible for paying them for any of that time away. Sanders co-sponsored New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand's updated version earlier this year, which called for paid medical leave.
"Simply stated it is an outrage that millions of women in this country give birth and then are forced back to work because they don't have the income to stay home with their newborn babies," Sanders said in a statement last week.
In addition, the 12 weeks of paid leave could also be used to care for a sick family member or for the employee herself, should she become very ill and need to take time away from work.
3. He's cool with sick days: Sanders wants all employees to be guaranteed seven paid sick days a year. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn't guarantee pay for workers who are too sick to work. He's sponsoring a bill by Washington Sen. Patty Murray that could change the lives of millions of Americans who work in industries with hourly wages and minimal benefits. Currently, 40 percent of American employees lack access to any form of job protection when they're sick because they work for businesses that are too small to meet the protection standards of the current Family Medical Leave Act. (More like FML Act.)
4. For Sanders, "family" isn't just defined as one man and one woman with biological children: Sen. Sanders has a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood and has been pro-gay rights and marriage for nearly 20 years. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (which the Supreme Court struck down as "unconstitutional" in 2013).
For Sanders' full statement on "family values", check out his video here:
- ^ Just last week (thehill.com)
- ^ the worst industrialized nation (fortune.com)
- ^ co-sponsored (www.sanders.senate.gov)
- ^ sponsoring a bill (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ 40 percent of American employees lack access (www.sanders.senate.gov)
- ^ Family Medical Leave Act (www.dol.gov)
- ^ 100 percent approval rating (votesmart.org)
- ^ voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (www.sanders.senate.gov)
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