Lobbying for and against Paid Family Leave

Activity Description:


The goal of this exercise is for students to become familiar with and learn how to represent several competing viewpoints on family leave policies and practices. Students should be familiar with the notion of family leave before beginning.


The concrete task is to take positions on a proposal for paid family leave. Students should work together in small groups to articulate the position of a particular interest group on a paid family leave proposal in preparation for “lobbying” a “Senator.” Students might prepare in advance outside of class or in class for the “lobbying day,” depending on how in-depth the instructor wants them to go.

It is important for students to work together in small groups to articulate the position of their assigned interest group. It is important for students to “lobby” the “Senator” with the rest of the class as audience. And it is important for each group of students to listen to the lobbying efforts of the other groups.

Interest groups to represent include: labor, child care workers, advocates for child health and well-being, the aged, the chronically ill, people with disabilities, manufacturers, local chambers of commerce, the United States Chamber of Commerce, small businesses, large employers, and human resources professionals.

The role of the “Senator” could be played by a class visitor with actual policy experiences or by a small group of students assigned to play the “Senator” role. During “lobbying” discussions, the “Senator” should make it clear that both the Senator’s time to put into pushing for positions and the public money available for funding programs are scarce resources being allocated among a variety of competing interests and that the “Senator” must keep re-election in mind as well. For example, the “Senator” might say to the feminists that they just haven’t been getting the votes out or to business that the “Senator” cannot afford to alienate labor, etc.

Examples of proposed paid family leave laws can be found on the web site of the National Partnership for Women and Families. The existing California paid family leave law could be used. Or the instructor could simply propose that the existing federal family leave law be amended to require paid leave.

Activity Source:

Content contributed by Elizabeth Rudd as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity