CLINTON ON PARENTING
JUNE 24, 1996
President Clinton spoke this afternoon after the Family Reunion Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The topic was families and parenting in today's economy.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: If you think about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the whole history of our nation, it's been one long struggle to make this country a country with more opportunity, more fairness, more unity, living up to the ideals that the founders enshrined, so that people can then make all their own decisions and most of the decisions made have nothing to do with government, about how they're going to organize work and hopefully the work will permit them to live good personal lives and build strong families. And that's the way I look at my job.
Now, what we have been talking about today are the worries of parenthood. First of all, the family and medical leave law has done a lot of good, but it is extremely narrow in its purpose. In other words, you're entitled to time off without losing your job in a work place of 50 employees or more if there's a medical crisis involving a parent or a child, an immediate family member, or the birth of a child. That's better than it used to be, but I believe just based on--and you heard some of this today--I believe we should expand the family leave law.
I would propose that we pass a Family Leave II that would allow employees to take up to 24 hours a year--that's not a lot of time--for parent-teacher conferences or for routine medical care for a child, a spouse, or a parent, because there are a lot of parents who, who cannot go to school to see the child's teacher because the work schedule and the schedule of the school don't work. And there--and there are a lot of times when there's routine--what at least starts out to be a routine medical problem, where it really makes a difference if the parent can go, especially with a young child, or where there's nobody else to take the parents, so I am very hopeful that we can get some support for this. I also think that--
I also think it would create a more honest work place. I mean, I bet every one of us knows somebody who's called in sick and said they had car trouble so they could go meet with their child's teacher, or take a child or a parent to the doctor. Uh, so I think that we ought to pass Family Leave II, and I believe it will make a difference. Secondly, I think we need to make the work place more family-friendly, especially where a lot of overtime is concerned, and give people more flex time in taking overtime either in income or in time with their families. Now, traditionally overtime has been a very important way for a lot of American workers to realize their dreams. Overtime is really the difference between a good middle class existence and being in real trouble for a lot of workers, and I don't believe we should change that. But with more Americans working more hours, simply spending time with your family can be a dream in itself--a vacation--a maternity leave that goes beyond what's mandated by law, or if the child's in trouble and you just need some time to spend time with your child. So today what I'm proposing is that we redefine compensation in a way that reflects the value of family and community. I'm going to send the Congress a flex time initiative that will give employees this choice. If you work overtime, you can be paid time and a half, just as you are now, and just as the law requires, but if you want, you can take that payment in time and for every hour you work overtime, you could take off an hour and a half. In this sense, the proposal is fundamental to redefining work time. Workers can put in time and get money, or they can put in time and get time. You can choose money in the bank or time on the clock. It's important that this be a choice for employees.
I should say that most employers in America would like this option. And there's a law to support among employers for giving this kind of option. But it's also important how it's designed because it will only work as a family-friendly decision if there's a genuine partnership, which means to go back to what our friend from Saturn days, this is a case where the employee has to make the decision. And that's very important. There must be complete freedom to choose between if you're required to work overtime in your job or you're given the chance to work overtime and you, the employee, must get the choice of whether to take the overtime and money or time. Otherwise, it could simply open the door wide for abuse of the overtime laws, so the families that need the overtime income could fall behind. But if it is honestly administered and fairly given to the employee, think what a difference it could make in critical family situations.