Groups launch referendum campaign for paid family and medical leave

Groups that support paid family and medical leave in Maine are launching a referendum campaign even as a legislature-appointed commission works to craft a statewide program.

The Maine Women’s Lobby and Maine People’s Alliance said Tuesday they were beginning to collect signatures to put a measure on the ballot next year.

A leader of the effort hopes the commission will come up with a paid family leave plan for the Legislature to pass next year, but said the need for the program was too pressing to rely on that approach alone.

“Calls for a solution that will support families and small businesses are growing,” Destie Holman Sprague, executive director of the Maime Women’s Lobby, said in a statement. She said her organization supports the commission’s work, but “we hope a popular referendum will help ensure that paid family leave and medical leave become a reality for Mainers over the next two years.”

Groups supporting the referendum aim to have the measure passed statewide by November 2023, giving the Legislature time to consider a plan proposed by the Family Leave Commission and Maine’s paid medical doctors. The commission is due to report to the Legislative Assembly in November.

Groups working on a referendum said a paid family and medical leave program should apply to all workers – hourly, salaried or self-employed – to take paid leave to deal with events such as birth, adoption or adoption of a child; recovery from surgery, accident or other significant physical or mental health condition; supporting a loved one who has had a significant physical or mental health issue or an older family member who needs significant support; preparing for or transitioning a family member’s military deployment; and meeting their immediate needs or those of a family member if they experience domestic or sexual violence.

The leave would be limited to 12 weeks for a single need and 16 weeks in total per year. Funding would come from employers and employees, with larger companies contributing more to a fund to pay for leave.

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