the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

Search form

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the President on Working Families in a 21st Century Economy

Charmington’s Café
North Baltimore, Maryland

1:46 P.M. EST
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  I want to thank Amanda and the whole crew here at this wonderful coffee shop.  And I also want to thank Vika and Mary, as well as the senior senator from the state of Maryland, Barbara Mikulski. 
 
We've had a great conversation about the announcements I'm making today and that I'll amplify in the State of the Union about how can we support working families so that they have the tools to succeed in this new economy.
 
Part of the reality of the new economy is that 60 percent of households have two people working, and if they’ve got kids or they’ve got an ailing parent, juggling both doing right by their family and making a living can be tough. 
 
Now, one of the biggest problems that we have is that there are 43 million Americans who don't get paid sick leave, which when you think about it is a pretty astonishing statistic.  And that means that no matter how sick they are, or how sick a family member is, they may find themselves having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children. 
 
And part of the reason we wanted to have this conversation here was because Amanda, who is part of the cooperative that opened this coffee shop, is really adamant, as a small business, in looking after their employees and providing paid sick leave, and making sure that they’re paying above minimum wage.  And what Amanda has found -- and we've heard this from a lot of employers -- is, is that when they make that investment in their employees it pays dividends because the employees are more productive, there’s lower turnover, there’s greater productivity.  And in fact, both large and small companies, it turns out, end up being more profitable over the long term, because, typically, any organization and certainly business is only going to be as good as its people.
 
We had a chance to hear from Mary, who is a school nurse as well as a small businesswoman, and Mary made the point that even now she finds herself in a situation where during flu season you’ve got a kid who is at school, has a bad flu -- she needs to call the parent to try to get them to pick up their kid, and the parent can't do it because they risk losing their job or losing a big chunk of their paycheck.  And that obviously put everybody else’s kids at risk because you’ve got a sick child there who can infect others.
 
Vika talked about a time in her life when she was basically a consultant, having small children and trying to juggle looking after them.  And each time that she had to take a day off, that might cost her $150, which when you're a young family getting started, that's going to have an impact on whether or not you can save to ultimately buy a home or start putting away savings for a college education.
 
So this is an issue that spans geography, spans demographics.  Working families, middle-class folks all across the country are concerned about it.  And the good news is we really can do something about it. 
 
So today, I'm going to be announcing our support and advocacy on behalf of a national seven-day -- seven sick-day policy all across the country.  And we're going to go beat the drum across cities and states to encourage not only that these laws are adopted nationally, but also that employers start adopting these policies as well.
 
And we're also going to help cities and states study and look at the feasibility of paid sick leave generally -- or, excuse me, paid family leave generally -- because we already have laws in place, the Family Medical Leave Act, that allows people to take the time off to look after their sick child or sick parent, but unfortunately, a lot of people just can't afford to take advantage of it.
 
So the good news is the economy has picked up speed.  We are past the point of crisis.  We've seen 58 straight months of job growth.  We have seen 11 million jobs created.  The economy is stable and is building momentum.  Now we have to make sure that that economy is benefitting everybody. 
 
And by adopting this working families agenda, thinking about how we can provide more flexibility to families, thinking about how we can make sure that moms and dads don't have to choose between looking after their kids and doing what they need to do at work, thinking about all those families that are now trying to care for an aging parent -- that kind of flexibility ultimately is going to make our economy stronger and is just one piece of what needs to be a really aggressive push to ensure that if you work hard in this country then you can make it.
 
So I just want to thank this outstanding venue.  The food was great.  I ate a little too much, but that's okay, it was off-camera.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank Mary, Vika, Amanda, and somebody who has been a champion for working families here in Maryland and across the country for a very long time -- Barbara Mikulski.
 
All right?  Thanks, guys. 
 
END   
1:52 P.M. EST