U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina's stance on paid leave is out of touch and hurting her chances of making it to the White House.
Gillibrand sat down with Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher to discuss a topic that's dominated the news in recent days: paid parental leave. The full interview will run this Friday at 3 p.m. on Fortune Live.
On Sunday, Fiorina told CNN that she opposes a government mandate requiring companies to provide paid maternity leave. Gillibrand, who introduced legislation to give workers access to paid family and medical leave earlier this year, told Fortune that Fiorina's position on the issue is out of touch with the electorate. “I think it will overwhelmingly [hurt] her with both male and female Republican voters because overwhelmingly, they all support paid leave,” Gillibrand said.
While “all” is an exaggeration, 74% of Republican voters (and 82% of all voters) say that employees should be able to earn paid time off to take care of themselves and their families, according to a poll conducted in January by Lake Research Partners in conjunction with the Make It Work campaign, which advocates for equal pay, childcare services, and paid leave, among other issues.
As for why Fiorina is out of sync with voters, Gillibrand suggests that the one-time CEO of Hewlett-Packard, whose net worth is reportedly $59 million, is simply unaware of the realities of America’s working class.
“She may just not be aware, she may be in her own world, her own bubble where she can afford child care, she can afford support when she needs it, but her low-wage worker can’t,” said Gillibrand.
The senator went on to point out that if low-wage workers do not have access to paid leave—which is the case for half of workers who make $540 or less per week, according to a 2014 report by the Council of Economic Advisers—they will end up relying on government aid.
“When a low-wage worker cannot even have a sick day or a paid leave day after the birth of an infant, she is far more likely to go on assistance, public assistance. So from [Fiorina’s] perspective, she would rather the rest of us, taxpayers, pay for her employees than her pay for her employees—and that’s wrong.”
In March of this year, Gillibrand introduced legislation to provide workers, regardless of gender, with paid family leave. The so-called FAMILY Act, modeled after existing programs in California and New Jersey, would create a fund within the Social Security Administration that would be paid into by employee and employer alike, and would travel with workers from job to job.
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