- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2014

When it comes to expanding workers’ benefits, President Obama said Monday that the United States should be more like France.

“Other countries know how to do this,” Mr. Obama said of granting workers more generous paid leave. “If France can figure this out, we can figure it out.”

France has some of the most liberal work rules in the European Union, including a maximum 35-hour work week and 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.


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Speaking at the first White House summit for working families, aimed especially at single working women who are important to the Democrats’ base, Mr. Obama criticized U.S. employers for failing to offer paid maternity leave.

“Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth,” he said. “There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us. And that is not a list you want to be on, by your lonesome. It’s time to change that.”

The White House is hosting the summit with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, in part as a way to motivate women voters in this election year.

Mr. Obama is announcing a series of steps aimed at workplace flexibility, including an executive order directing federal agencies to implement existing workplace flexibility initiatives and to institute a new “right to request” work policy. But the president isn’t proposing new legislation, and his aides blame congressional Republicans for the lack of new initiatives.

“There are a lot of good ideas that are being blocked in Congress right now,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, citing the GOP’s opposition to raising the federal minimum wage.

House Republicans said Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in the Senate are holding up several good House-passed bills that would help working families.

“House Republicans are focused on expanding opportunity and economic security for middle-class families, President Obama’s policies are only making things harder,” said the office of Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, in a statement.