- PositionFormer Maryland Congressman
Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) joined Fortune for a video interview. The following transcript of that conversation 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?
Delaney: I believe the United States should have mandatory paid family and medical leave. Most developed nations around the world have mandatory paid family leave. We’re one of the few nations that does not. I think it provides dignity to workers. I think it’s part of the social compact that we should have for our citizens and our workers. And I also think it’s actually very smart economic policy and will lead to more economic growth because it puts families and workers in a position where they have that needed flexibility that we all need, from time to time, to take care of a family or a medical emergency.
My plan provides eight weeks of annual paid family leave where workers would receive 60% of their compensation during those eight weeks. And the plan is fully paid for with a very small 25 basis points payroll tax.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
Making sure that families have access to childcare is part of the basic social compact—or at least it should be part of the modern social compact for our families. And I do think it’s smart economic policy. The first thing I propose is a very significant expansion of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, which puts more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans and gives them more flexibility around childcare. I’m also in favor of universal pre-K and very significant expansion in early childhood education. Not only do I believe those are in many ways the best investment we make in our future and in our education system, but I think universal early childhood education and certainly universal pre-K alleviate an enormous amount of the burdens around childcare.
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?
I don’t believe the Congress of the United States or corporate America has gone far enough to address sexual harassment in our country. Let’s start with Congress. One of the things Congress has failed to do is adequately fund the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], which is the most important agency we have in our government to enforce the laws that we have protecting our citizens against workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. For decades it’s been chronically underfunded. We see lots of evidence of huge backlogs within the EEOC. The main institution in our government that is responsible for actually defending people against hostile work environments and sexual harassment has not been supported by the Congress of the United States, and that’s a huge failure.
I also think corporate America needs to lean into this much more. Before I served in Congress, I started two businesses. I took them public, and I was the CEO of two publicly traded companies. This was a really important issue to me, and I wanted to run the kind of company where there was zero tolerance for these kinds of situations. That tone is set at the top by the leadership of these corporations. I think corporate America needs to do more.
But we also know there are a lot of workers who are on the low end of the pay scale who don’t have support or don’t feel comfortable putting forth the claim. So we need to build not only within our government, but also outside our government, support groups and organizations to support these workers. That’s the only way we’re going to get to the place where we should be, which is where every worker feels safe in their workplace and not subject to discrimination. We need the Congress to do its job, we need the tone at the top to be set by corporate America. And we need institutions and organizations to support workers.
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?
We have a huge pay gap in our country with respect to women compared to men, and with respect to people of color compared to white people. And this needs to be addressed. Because it’s not fair, and we’re never going to achieve our potential unless we create the kind of environment where all workers are compensated fairly for the contributions that they make.
One of the things I will do as President is ensure that the Paycheck Fairness Act gets passed. Passing the Equal Rights Amendment where we codify in our Constitution that you can’t have discriminatory law between men and women is another incredibly important thing that we have to do.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
I do support the movement and policies to ensure that this country is represented among the senior decision-makers in corporate America. First, as a matter of fundamental fairness, everyone should have the same opportunity. Second, unless the leadership of major corporations really reflect our society, we’re not going to fulfill our potential. Because those who have the privilege of leading or governing really need to represent the people that they are leading or the people that they are governing.
We all know that different stakeholders need specific representation. If you don’t have women in leadership, whether in government or in business, issues that are most important to women are not [advocated for]. I do support policies that encourage a future where we see our government and our business—our largest businesses in particular—being reflective of who we are.
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?
No one should be discriminated against because they’re pregnant in the workplace. I support laws preventing companies from making discriminatory decisions against individuals who are pregnant, or people who have just had a child and are taking advantage of the appropriate medical leave that comes with having a child.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.