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Romney Doesn't Understand Women - Or The Workplace

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October 17, 2012

Last night, Mitt Romney kept digging himself deeper:

Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

As The Daily Beast put it, “The notion that women need flexibility from their male employer (Romney) so they can be home in time to cook dinner for their family is June Cleaver–antiquated, to say the least.” New York Magazine quipped, “On the plus side, at least Romney is okay with the idea of women working — as long as they can convince their boss to let them come home in time to make dinner.”

All workers -- men and women -- need flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities. What about meetings with teachers? Little League games? Or doctors appointments?

It shows just how out of touch Romney is with what working people face on the job. According to Romney, in a strong economy, companies will be “so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women” that employers won’t mind “adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

But not all employers are going to give workers flexibility out of the goodness of their hearts – that’s why we need legislation.

And even then, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 has only partially addressed workers’ growing need for more flexibility. Nearly 41 million workers -- more than 40 percent of the private-sector workforce -- are not covered by the FMLA, which requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to recover from a medical condition, care for an ill family member or bond with a new child. A Labor Department study found that 78 percent of workers who needed FMLA leave didn’t take it because they couldn’t afford to go without a paycheck.

The United States is lagging behind other countries. According to The Project on Global Working Families, more than 81 countries provide sickness benefits for at least 26 weeks or until recovery.  Just four countries don’t offer paid maternity leave -- Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and the United States.

Romney currently doesn’t have a position on the FMLA. Maybe it’s time he takes a stand.