Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that New York City teachers will for the first time receive paid parental leave beginning this fall. According to Elizabeth A. Harris and J. David Goodman in The New York Times, the policy “will provide six weeks of paid parental at full salary to all parents. Teachers who give birth will be able to use sick time, as well, for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a vaginal delivery and 14 weeks of leave for a cesarean section.”
Harris and Goodman state that the plan was enacted under pressure from the United Federation of Teachers and note that the city predicts that 4,000 teachers per year will take parental leave. The city will provide the union with $51 million per year in financing to help fund the program and will delay raises for its employees by extending the union contract for two and a half months in order to offset the costs of the policy.
Carrie Melago and Alex Zimmerman explain in Chalkbeat that “the city will pay full salary to birth, foster, adoptive, and surrogate parents for six weeks — covering about 120,000 union members. Combined with sick time, birth mothers will now be able to take 12 to 14 weeks of leave starting in September.”
Melago and Zimmerman describe the wrangling between the mayor and the union over the details of the proposal, noting charges by some union members that the resistance to the program was rooted in sexism. UFT membership is 77 percent female.
They also recall how “the battle for paid family leave was re-ignited by an online petition started by two Brooklyn teachers that had more than 80,000 signatures in the fall.” They recall that when “the teachers brought attention to the issue, the union took up the cause, sending out an ‘action alert’ to members in November” in order to push the plan forward.
Prior to the enactment of paid parental leave, teachers had to use sick days if they wanted paid time off after the birth of a child. Melago and Zimmerman explain that since teachers only earn one sick day per month, “to save up for an eight-week leave, a teacher would have to work about four years without taking a sick day.”
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