Paul Ryan Wants A “Healthy” Work-Life Balance… So Do We!

This week, Rep. Paul Ryan found himself in a very unique bargaining position with his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. He held all the cards—they desperately needed him for his leadership, his determination, and his political prowess. For anyone who’s ever negotiated on salary, it was a dream situation. Republicans were basically reduced to pleading: Please, Paul, take the promotion! Just let us know your price!

And name a price he did.

Among other demands, Ryan said: “I cannot and I will not give up my family”.

Paul Ryan has consistently shown his commitment to his family and his hometown community. In an August interview, his wife, Janna Ryan, said, “It's his oxygen to be here [in Janesville] and be with this family.”

Paul Ryan’s openness about his unwavering commitment to his family is refreshing—especially in a culture where being “successful” and being a “good parent” are often seen as mutually exclusive (not to mention where women still spend much more time child-rearing). But advocates who have been fighting for decades to win all Americans more time with their kids were quick to recognize Ryan’s hypocrisy.  

For himself, Ryan understands the importance of a healthy work-life balance; he also seems to understand how important time with his family is to himself and his loved ones. But during his time in Congress, Ryan has championed policies that would make it even more difficult for working families to achieve that same balance.

Here’s how:

  • Paul Ryan does NOT support the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (H.R.1439/ S.786). The FAMILY Act would allow workers to take a short time (up to 60 days) out of their working lives when a family member is in need, without having to worry about missing paychecks. This includes caring for a sick parent, a newborn child, and oneself. Currently, less than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce has access to personal medical leave through an employer.
  • Paul Ryan OPPOSES raising the minimum wage. Raising the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 would increase paychecks for families overnight. That extra cash would go directly to the workers most in need. Raising the minimum wage to $12 would increase pay for 35.1 million workers.  It could allow some workers, who currently toil at two or three jobs just to get by, the freedom to work slightly less and spend more time with their families.
  • Paul Ryan does NOT support the Schedules That Work Act (H.R.3071/ S.1772). Many Americans, especially those in the service industry, face irregular and unpredictable hours that make it impossible to plan more than a few days in advance. This can make it impossible for families to coordinate necessities like childcare—let alone plan to have everyone home on a given day. The Schedules That Work Act would ensure many more workers receive their schedules at least two weeks in advance, discourage last minute schedules changes, and protect employees, who ask for more stability, from retaliation.
  • Paul Ryan does NOT support the Healthy Families Act (H.R.932/ S.497). The Healthy Families Act would allow many more workers to accumulate sick days (one hour per every 30 hours worked up to seven days  per year) that could be used to care for themselves or family members. Because the ability to take sick days is still a privilege in this country, some parents risk losing their jobs when a child gets sick at school.

Paul Ryan is not the only parent in this country looking to spend more time with his kids, but he is one of the lucky few, who are currently in a position to negotiate that balance.

While Paul Ryan tries to calibrate his ideal work-life balance, millions of Americans simply do not have that option. Without change, work-life balance will remain a privilege exclusive to only the most “successful” and wealthy in our society. It does not have to be that way.


For Further Reading:

Protect Social Security Disability Insurance Without Cutting BenefitsThe Fine Print, 9/23/2015

Student Debt Matters to All of UsThe Fine Print, 8/24/2015

"Flexibility" for Whom? Irregular Schedules, Other Practices Wreak Havoc on WorkersThe Fine Print, 8/19/2014

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