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Did Big Business Have a Change of Heart Over FMLA?

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Claiming it wants to "protect the integrity" of the Family and Medical Leave Act, a coalition of business groups calling itself the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave has asked the Labor Department to make changes in the legislation so the law is "available to those employees Congress intended to cover."

The coalition believes that companies face too many problems in trying to figure out when to grant leave and would prefer to limit the law's benefits, according to a news report published by the Bureau of National Affairs.

But the campaign launched by corporate America last year to weaken or outright eliminate FMLA, which has helped an estimated 50 million working Americans since it became law in 1993, shows the group's true colors. "Changing FMLA is our No. 1 priority right now in terms of labor issues," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said.

Two of the new coalition's leading members are the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce. The coalition is trying to repackage its opposition to the law – which is critical to the well-being of working families -- in a "family friendly way." Even the web site sounds worker friendly: www.protectfamilyleave.org.

The coalition's – and big business's major target – are provisions of FMLA which enable workers to take family and medical leave on an "intermittent" basis. Currently, workers can exercise FMLA for part of a day or on an occasional basis. This provision has enabled thousands of workers to get the medical treatment they or their families need, without risking their jobs.

CWA and other unions are fighting to save the law, and CWA has filed a response with the Labor Department regarding its plans to revise the law and make it harder for workers to take FMLA leave.