Valerie Jarrett hits Chicago to push for paid family leave

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WASHINGTON — White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett returns home to Chicago on Thursday for a series of events related to President Barack Obama’s push for employers to create more “workplace flexibility.”

In the Feb. 24 Chicago election, voters approved by 82 percent an advisory question to require city employers to provide paid leave for personal or family illness or other emergencies.

The campaign to pass that referendum was largely fueled by unions.

“This is not an area where there should be friction. The evidence demonstrates it would be good for business,” Jarrett told the Sun-Times.

Jarrett and Labor Secretary Tom Perez are on a national swing to throw a spotlight on the administration efforts to broaden leave policies

On Thursday Jarrett:

• Will discuss paid leave policies at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center with U. of Chicago economics professor Austan Goolsbee, who is a former Obama White House chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The audience at the business school will include business leaders, advocates and workers, among others.

• Will meet with Gleacher students to talk about leave policies as “issues they should be thinking about and studying in school.”

• Will meet with human resource and other business executives in another session to get “on the ground feedback and advice.”

Congress is not likely to approve an Obama measure calling for paid sick time for workers.

However, Obama did sign a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child and is pushing for states and cities to pass sick leave laws.

Jarrett noted that Obama has ordered 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for his own staffers — and three high-level women are pregnant at the same time, including Jen Psaki, who left the State Department to become the White House communications director.

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