- PositionMassachusetts Senator
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) answered questions from Fortune and Time’s Up via email. The following transcript of that exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
Fortune/Time’s Up: Do you believe that the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave and, if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Warren: Yes, the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave. We are the only OECD country that fails to require any paid leave for new parents. Lack of paid leave squeezes families in a variety of ways. It results in lower earnings for those who must take unpaid leave to provide care. It deprives children and their parents of crucial bonding and recovery time after childbirth. And it can negatively affect caregivers’ ability to stay in the workforce and achieve higher earnings over time.
My plan to enact paid family and medical leave builds on the plan originally proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. As President, I will fight for up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave in a one-year period to care for a newborn or newly adopted child; to act as caregiver to a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, or chosen family member with a serious health condition; to deal with the worker’s own serious medical condition; or address specific military caregiving needs.
Workers would receive 66% of their salary, capped at $4,000 per month, with a minimum payment of $580 per month. Unlike our current unpaid federal leave system, which is limited to businesses with over 50 employees, paid family and medical leave would be available to anyone who meets the work history requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance. This would be a game-changer for American families—and a big step toward building an economy that works for all of us.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
One of the first plans I released in my campaign was about providing universal childcare and high-quality childcare for every baby age 0-5 in our country. Childcare was the boulder that almost crushed me when I was a working mom with two little ones, but my Aunt Bee rescued us. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an Aunt Bee. Under my plan, high-quality childcare and early education will be free for millions of American families, and affordable for everyone.
The federal government will partner with local providers—states, cities, school districts, nonprofits, tribes, faith-based organizations—to create a network of childcare options that would be available to every family. Local communities would be in charge, but providers would be held to high national standards to make sure that no matter where you live, your child will have access to quality care and early learning. Childcare and preschool workers will be doing the educational work that teachers do, so they will be paid like comparable public school teachers. The entire cost of my plan is covered by my wealth tax, a small tax on giant fortunes over $50 million. In the wealthiest country on the planet, affordable and high-quality childcare and early education should be a right for everyone, not a privilege reserved for the rich.
Do you think institutions—from Congress to Fortune 500 companies—have done enough to address sexual harassment? What have you done, and what will you do, to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace?
We will only solve the problem of workplace sexual harassment when we achieve real accountability in every workplace and empower those who experience harassment to come forward, safely. That’s why I’ve sponsored the BE HEARD Act, sweeping anti-harassment legislation that would strengthen protections against discrimination and make it easier for employees to report instances of harassment. I’ve also coauthored the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act, a bill to force publicly traded companies to disclose workplace harassment and discrimination settlements while protecting the privacy of survivors.
Within my own campaign, I’ve put in place anti-harassment and training policies to create a safe and inclusive organization that lives the values we fight for every day.
Women in the U.S. earn 80 cents on white men’s dollar in wages, a gap that gets even wider for black women, Latinas, and Native American women. What is your plan to work with employers to close the pay and opportunity gap for women, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and working mothers?
Every year, we recognize Women’s Equal Pay Day in the spring. This day sounds like it should be a celebration, but it is a national day of embarrassment. We will recognize the next Equal Pay Day in the spring of 2020, because it will take the average woman one year and three months to make what the average man made over the course of just one year, from Jan. 1, 2019, to Jan. 1, 2020. We will recognize black, Latina, and Native American women’s Equal Pay Day even later in 2020 because the pay gap is much wider for women of color.
In the year 2020, we must make big structural change to close the pay gap once and for all. As President, I will take action on day one of my administration to boost wages for women of color throughout the federal government. The federal government can set a standard for higher wages that will influence the rest of the economy and lead us in the right direction toward closing the wage gap.
I will also pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to ensure that wage differences are the result of factors such as education, training, or experience, rather than gender. I’ll also raise the minimum wage to $15 and make it easier to join a union. To increase pay for LGBTQ workers, I will pass the Equality Act and fight for nondiscrimination protections in the workplace.
The Paycheck Fairness Act includes penalties for employers who violate pay equity provisions.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
Everyone deserves to have a seat at the table where decisions that impact their lives are made, but corporate boardrooms are overwhelmingly white and male. This shuts women and people of color out of the conversation and makes it more likely that biases will go unchecked in the decision-making process.
My Accountable Capitalism Act would empower workers at big American corporations to elect no less than 40% of the company’s board members. This would diversify the pool of people making decisions at our nation’s biggest companies. I have also proposed a set of executive actions that will open up new pathways to the leadership positions women and women of color deserve. Companies with federal contracts employ roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce—and I will deny contracting opportunities to companies with poor track records on diversity and equal pay. I will also issue an Equal Opportunity Executive Order to recruit and develop leadership paths for underrepresented workers.
Would you—and how would you—propose to strengthen protection for people who need accommodations to do their jobs while pregnant or who are discriminated against because of their pregnancies at work?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a public school teacher. I got my four-year degree from the University of Houston and went on to become a teacher for students with speech and learning disabilities. I got to live my dream. But when I became visibly pregnant, I was told that the job I’d been promised for next year would go to someone else. Pregnancy discrimination is real, and it still happens today.
As President, I will strengthen protections for pregnant workers. I will fight to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which, among other things, makes it illegal to fail to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers or to deny employment opportunities to pregnant workers based on the need to make such reasonable accommodations.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.