Clinton offers Americans control over schedules Proposals would allow workers time off for family activities

June 25, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Seeking to bolster his credentials as a friend to working families, President Clinton announced proposals yesterday that he said would help workers balance the often-conflicting demands of the workplace and the home.

Clinton's proposals would allow most employees to take time off without pay for routine family activities, such as parent-teacher conferences or visits to the doctor, and to opt for paid time off instead of overtime pay.

By giving workers more control over their dueling obligations, Clinton said, "I believe this will be a stronger country. I believe we'll have a stronger economy. I know we'll have stronger children and stronger families."

Under Clinton's two-pronged plan, workers could take up to 24 hours a year without pay to participate in their children's school activities or meet with their teachers, take their children to the doctor or dentist or help elderly relatives obtain health care.

The second part of the plan would allow workers who prefer time off to overtime pay to accumulate up to 80 hours in "flex-time" -- 90 minutes for every 60 minutes worked -- which they could use for any reason by giving employers two weeks' notice.

Clinton said that Americans -- whom he described as "working fools" because of the hours they put in -- have to change the culture of the workplace so that parents can tend to their jobs and make ends meet without ignoring their children.

"This is a working country. But you have to be able to create a strong and secure family," Clinton told workers and business leaders who participated in a "Family Reunion" conference in Nashville headed by Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper.

The president described the workplace proposals as part of a framework of activities designed to help families, including legislation that placed more police officers on the streets, a presidential attack on teen-age smoking and his efforts to let parents control their children's access to television violence.

Clinton announced his proposals just days after Republican women in Congress revealed a workers' plan of their own and weeks after GOP men proposed something similar, setting the stage for an election-year battle over which party is more supportive of families and children.

The president's proposal calls for Congress to amend two existing laws.

The flex-time proposal would be inserted in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which provides for overtime pay and covers at least 65 million workers, according to the White House.

The 24 hours of unpaid leave would be included in the Family and Medical Leave Act, which Clinton signed shortly after taking office in 1993.

Clinton billed his latest proposals as "Family Leave II" after the popular existing act.

That law, which was widely opposed by business organizations, allows workers at companies with 50 or more employees to take bTC up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave to care for an infant or newly adopted child or for seriously ill relatives.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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