New York City will provide six weeks of parental leave at full salary for hundreds of thousands of city public school employees, including tens of thousands of teachers.
The agreement was announced Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, union and school officials.
"Paid parental leave makes so much sense, it always made sense, but it makes even more sense in the 21st Century when people are working so hard with such long hours and struggle to make ends meet," de Blasio said at the announcement. "It's a fundamental manner of fairness to make sure people have this opportunity."
The contract covers about 120,000 workers. They include 79,000 teachers, plus United Federation of Teachers-represented school nurses, therapists, guidance counselors, secretaries and others.
The benefit will take effect Sept. 4, the city said. That is right in time for the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year; the first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 5.
Birth parents and non-birth parents will get the paid leave for the birth of a child. It also will apply to the adoption or fostering of a child under the age of 6.
Birth mothers can use accrued sick time to extend their leave to as long as 14 weeks.
The city estimates that more than 4,000 new parents a year will use the benefit.
The city introduced the policy in 2005 for a number of city workers. The city says it plans to expand the policy to more employees in the future.
PARENTS HAVE SAID THEY COULDN'T AFFORD TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR KIDS
The push for the new benefit began with a grassroots campaign by teachers, who wanted to match the parental leave benefit given to 20,000 city managers.
To take time off to care for their newborn children, New York City teachers have had to use sick days that they accumulated and borrow future sick days. The maximum number of sick days teachers could borrow was 20.
"So when I go back to work I will have negative 20 sick days. So, no one can get sick," Andrea Keller, a 4th grade teacher in the Bronx, said after she gave birth to twins in 2017.
Teachers could take time off — federal law allows up to 12 weeks — but they were not paid.
In 2015, the mayor announced 20,000 non-union workers would get paid family leave in exchange for giving up a planned raise, and that his administration would seek similar deals with municipal unions.
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Budget watchdogs said previously that the city must tread carefully because giving teachers paid leave would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars year — and more when other unions inevitably ask for paid parental leave, too.
De Blasio said any change to the union's contract would have to be negotiated. But in the end, the city agreed to pay for the leave by giving $51 million a year to the union's welfare fund, and the union agreed to extend its current contract by 10 ½ weeks. The mayor said there would be no net cost to taxpayers.
"It's been a long fight. But today I get to stand here and say that wrong has finally been righted and this is the last school year that a UFT member will ever have to face the difficult choices they have done in the past," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said at the announcement.