If one listens to Republicans, and their Chamber of Commerce directors, the reason there is not full employment and why every working American is not a millionaire is because the poor beleaguered business community is too burdened with an outlandishly high minimum wage and profit-crushing employee benefits. Interestingly, most developed nations pay higher wages than American companies and provide employee benefits that most Americans can only dream about receiving in a nation that “family values” Republicans continue claiming is exceedingly exceptional.
Early last week, one American company announced that it would increase its employees’ benefits to keep pace with the rest of the developed industrialized world. In announcing that, as a company, Netflix would join all but 3 countries on Earth in demonstrating what a nation’s true support for family values looks like, the Chief Talent Officer wrote: “Today we’re introducing an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences.”
After an initial, and very, very brief, bit of praise for Netflix and its devotion to its valued employees and family values, it took less than a day for the praise to turn to criticism and typical conservative fear-mongering. A few of the headlines condemning a for-profit company’s dedication to its valued employees and families were: “Why Netflix’s unlimited parental leave is a bad idea for your company;” “Why Netflix’s ‘unlimited’ maternity leave policy won’t work;” and “Netflix’s New Parental Leave Policy Could Make Things Worse for Women.” The last title was featured in Time no less, and argued that giving women paid ‘family leave time” was not only bad for the mother, the father, and the whole family, it was dangerously harmful to the baby. The conservative attacks on Netflix appear to be a typical Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity effort to maintain the status quo and keep America’s labor force lagging the rest of the world in every category except productivity.
Netflix may be a trailblazer in American business, but Earth-wide the company is simply following savvy business practices that Republicans and the business community reject as anti-capitalistic, un-American, and devastating to the concept of American exceptionalism. Conservatives and the Chamber of Commerce are critical of ‘paid family time‘ because they want every business in America to continue the tradition that keeps this country in the same ‘family values‘ club as Oman and Papua New Guinea; the only countries, besides America, out of 185 that do not provide cash benefits for women’s maternity leave according to a 2014 report by the International Labour Organization. Apparently Oman and Papua New Guinea are every bit as “exceptional,” and “family values-oriented” as Republicans and they embrace pro-business conservatives’ anti-family values.
Whether she knew it or not, Carol Sladek, the lead work-life consultant at Aon Hewitt unknowingly acknowledged how successful Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce have been in convincing businesses and an increasing number of Americans that the workforce are slaves to business and are fortunate they get paid at all. Sladek said part of the challenge for American labor is that “we’ve been wired in the U.S. to think about time off as an entitlement” instead of a “valued employee benefit” that any sane human being would embrace.
Not only have Americans been indoctrinated to think that anything, including the Social Security pensions and Medicare health plans they paid in to their entire working lives is “an entitlement” (welfare), a large segment of stupid Americans believe the Republican propaganda that any business expense is un-American, socialistic, stolen from them personally, and an abomination before god. It is why, forget paid family leave, minimum wage, pensions, overtime pay, safety regulations, healthcare insurance, and even days off are in jeopardy of being eliminated because pro-business, anti-family, Republicans claim they are anathema to America. To Republicans and their hateful base, the idea of allowing new mothers and fathers to receive paid leave to spend time with their families is tantamount to waging war on America. Don’t believe it?
Some of the negative reactions, and comments, decrying Netflix’s pro-family announcement reveals not only the success Republicans have had indoctrinating their base into supporting corporations at all costs, they also revealed the inordinate jealousy and hatefulness inherent in many Americans for other Americans who happen to have good jobs and decent benefits like a living wage, paid vacation, overtime pay, weekends off, and healthcare insurance.
A website devoted to motherhood logged some of the negative comments targeting Netflix for setting a new American standard for a business’s dedication to family values and its employees. One commenter who likely never had a newborn, family responsibility, or understands the strain of being a working parent said that Netflix’s business decision was “Simply unfair to non parents.” Another commenter, likely projecting their own mindset and ingratitude toward their employer said, “It’s their business, they can do whatever they want. But don’t get upset when some takes advantage of that…takes the paid year and then says ‘oh, I’m leaving, but thanks for the free money.'”
The most telling comment certainly originated from an angry anti-government conservative who internalized a giant company’s business decision as a personal affront, and government theft of her “stuff.” The angry person said, “I want to know why my husband should pay for others to stay home with their children. It is taking money away from me and our children. If you want me to pay for them, give them to me. Respect me as a stay at home mom. The government is not there to take care of me. The government is we the people. Do you want to pay the female CEO’s salary do (sic) she can stay at home with her three babies? I do not.”
What exposes this commenter’s indoctrination by Republicans is the claim that Netflix offering paid time off is curiously “taking money away from me and our children,” and that somehow the commenter, via the government, is footing the bill for Netflix’s employee benefits. If the person had paid attention to the announcement, they would have comprehended that Netflix picking up the tab for “paid time off” relieves the state taxpayers of funding “disability pay.”
These comments reveal exactly why Republicans have maintained significant support among their base for opposing a minimum raise hike, eliminating overtime pay, abolishing weekends, or dog-forbid offering employees sick leave or pensions. It is not just that idiots believe decent employee compensation and benefits are business killers and un-American, it is the government stealing from other Americans.
This business decision by Netflix, although violating Republican and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s labor policies, is exactly that; a private for-profit company’s business decision rewarding its employees and supporting family values. In fact, it is relatively common knowledge that companies that provide their employees with what used to be universal benefits, a living wage, paid vacations, healthcare, sick leave, overtime, and weekends off enjoy lower turnover, higher productivity, and a labor force devoted to the company’s success. For dog’s sake, even communist China, Russia, and North Korea offer their employee’s paid time off for maternity leave and caring for their newborn.
America lags the rest of the world in many areas, but most noticeably in how it treats its workforce. The negative response to one company joining the rest of the developed world in giving paid family leave for new births and adoptions is contrary to what one would expect from a movement claiming to be the party of family values. However, it is more revealing that instead of rallying behind Netflix’s announcement and demanding what every nation, save three, offer their employees, the right-wing is appalled; but then Republicans have been very pro-active and successful in convincing their base that anything good for American workers or that promotes family values is appalling, anti-capitalistic, and un-American.