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Yuppie welfare?

Editor: Gov. James R. Thompson was correct in his veto of the recently passed family leave law. It is first of all unfair because it requires every company to divert a portion of its employee benefit package, which should be equally available to all employees, and give it to just one class of employee, those who live in two-wage-earner families.

Even if unpaid leaves of eight weeks were guaranteed to all new parents, who could afford to go without a regular paycheck that long? Only couples at the upper end of the family pay scale. It is yuppie welfare.

Parental leave proponents argue that most mothers work because they must. The same is true, incidentally, of most fathers. Nevertheless, people working because they must are not likely to afford eight weeks off without pay. In fact, they are more likely to need one of the existing fringe benefits, such as a short — but paid — maternity leave which will be squeezed out by a mandated parental leave benefit.

Mandating one employee benefit reduces the possibility of others. Companies that have to bear the cost of a parental leave policy won't be able to afford as much for alternatives like longer vacations or better medical insurance. Making parental leave the law deprives both management and workers of flexibility in negotiations.

And what does such a parental leave policy do for older families, or childless couples, or singles, except reduce their benefit package?

Proponents argue that it is unconscionable for the U.S. to be the world's only industrial nation not to guarantee workers such benefits. But many employers have already been doing so for years. One recent survey of nearly 400 large firms found that 95 percent gave paid disability leave to new mothers, more than half offered mothers additional unpaid leave, and 37 provided such leave for fathers.

Many smaller firms, on the other hand, would be devastated by any such requirement to extend benefits, with a consequent loss of jobs.

There is a productivity loss every time you have to replace an employee, even if only for a short time. Other employees may be forced to work overtime to pick up the slack. Employers will be hit with additional unemployment insurance costs because they will be forced to dismiss temporary replacements when the employee returns to work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce puts the cost of a national parental leave policy at $2.6 billion. It imposes expensive burdens on businesses and creates a new tax that will be passed on to employees in reduced fringe benefits and to consumers in higher costs.

Mandating family leave would be taking leave of our economic senses.

Daniel J. Sobieski

Readers: Your comments on articles and columns are welcome. Please keep letters brief (250 words); we reserve the right to excerpt them so as many as space allows can be published. Send your letters to:

Caroline Gherardini, Editor
Illinois Issues
Sangamon State University
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9243

Election 1990: Who's running for what?

With the December filing deadline for the 1990 primary elections drawing closer, it seems that both Republicans and Democratis are attempting to forge a clear slate of candidates for each office up for statewide election in November. As of mid-October, however, the political waters were still turbulent. Recognized frontrunners have emerged for four spots on the ballot — one of Illinois' U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, the lieutenant governor's office and secretary of state.

The U.S. Senate race will pit the Democratic incumbent from Makanda, U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, against U.S. Rep. Lynn Martin (R-16, Loves Park). Several remarks by Martin have put the feisty congresswoman at an early disadvantage, but the November 6, 1990, general election is over a year away.

The main contenders for Gov. James R. Thompson's job are Atty. Gen. Neil F. Hartigan, a Democrat, and Secy. of State Jim Edgar, a Republican. Others interested in the top state spot include Mark Fairchild, the Lyndon LaRouche follower who surprised the Democrats in 1986 by defeating the party-slated candidate for lieutenant governor, and Dr. Robert A. Marshall, a Burr Ridge physician and village trustee. Marshall is a Republican.

For lieutenant governor, Edgar sought someone from the Chicago collar county area who would augment his downstate appeal. His choice was DesPlaines' Sen. Robert Kustra. A one-time college professor, Kustra served one term as a state representative (1981-83) and has represented District 28 in the Senate since 1983. Hartigan's choice for the No. 2 spot followed months of media speculation that ultimately focused on state Sen. Penny Severns (D-51, Decatur). Instead Hartigan selected James Burns, an Evanston trial lawyer, as his candidate of choice in early October. Burns, a partner with the Chicago law firm of Keck, Mahin and Cate, is a former assistant U.S. attorney who had been contemplating a run for attorney general in 1990.

Candidates for three of the remaining statewide offices are in a nearly state of fluctuation.

A crowd of Democrats lined up for a shot at the attorney general's office during late summer. Michael J. Howlett Jr., a Chicago attorney and son of former Secy. of State Michael Howlett Sr., pulled out of the race in late September. Hartigan's selection of Burns as his running mate further reduced the field. State Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch (D-4, Chicago) would like to have the job, but the leading contender now would appear to be state Comptroller Roland Burris.

The only GOP candidate for attorney general is Jim Ryan, DuPage County state's attorney.

In the race for secretary of state, both parties have settled on their candidates. Representing the GOP will be Lt. Gov. George H. Ryan. On the Democratic side will be state Treasurer Jerome Cosentino.

Democrats have flooded the field for comptroller and treasurer. Comptroler candidates presently include state Rep. Woods Bowman (D-4, Evanston), Joliet attorney Shawn Collins and Bill Sarto, the Democratic chairman for Kane County. There is speculation, however, that Sen. Netsch may get the party nod for comptroller if she withdraws from the race for attorney general.

Two Democratic state representatives, Tom Homer (D-91, Canton) and Peg McDonnell Breslin (D-75, Ottawa), are seeking the nomination for state treasurer. They may face stiff opposition, however, from state Sen. Vince Demuzio (D-49, Carlinville), head of the state's Democratic party.

On the GOP side, there is one candidate for comptroller. Gary Skoien, executive director of the Capital Development Board, entered the race in mid-September.

Only one Republican is seeking the treasurer's post. Greg Baise, former campaign manager for Gov. Thompson, is currently the governor's transportation secretary.

All candidacies for Republican and Democrat nominations in the March 20 primaries become official once their petitions are filed and approved by the State Board of Elections.

November 1989 | Illinois Issues | 12

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