Big business tried to keep the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) from becoming law in 1993. Now the business lobby is trying to dismantle one of this era’s most family-friendly reforms, says the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

More than 50 million workers have taken advantage of the FMLA by taking unpaid leave to care for themselves or their loved ones — with the guarantee that their job will be waiting for them when they return. CLUW is alerting all of its members that business groups are pushing hard to restrict the ability of workers to take time off and even to end the job guarantee, according to an article in the Spring 2006 CLUW newsletter. In the face of this campaign to weaken the law, CLUW instead advocates expanding the FMLA to allow leave for more people for more reasons — and to mandate paid leave.

Although it took an act of Congress to create the FMLA, CLUW warns that its provisions could be undone without any action on Capitol Hill. The Department of Labor has the authority to make revisions, following a public comment period. The department has placed changes to the FMLA on its list of regulatory priorities, so action could come at any time.

CLUW has launched a campaign to fight any attempts to dismantle the FMLA. In fact, says CLUW, FMLA needs to be expanded because so many workers are left behind. Two in five employees are not covered at all under the act, which only covers companies with 50 or more employees, and then only covers workers with at least one year on the job.

FMLA supporters propose extending the law to allow workers to take leave for additional family needs — such as parent-teacher conferences, taking an elderly parent to the doctor or staying home with a child who has the flu.

In addition, too many workers can’t take advantage of the FMLA because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave, so CLUW supports paying for family leave.