Degree Level




First Advisor

Sullivan, Michael

Second Advisor

Langston, Camille



LCSH subject

Labor unions; Family policy; Families -- United States


Enacted in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was the first substantial piece of federal legislation offering job-protected, unpaid leave to Americans. Since then, several states have passed laws offering an expansion of these protections including paid leave options, but no further policies have been adopted federally. Americans in need of these expansions are looking to a social force capable of advocating for such policy adoptions: organized labor. Thus, labor unions offer a case of interest to economists, political scientists, and sociologists in search of the expansion of federal workplace protections. Using both comparative legal and policy analysis as well as a theoretical approach, this paper will argue that labor unions can effectively mobilize for family rights. To establish the history of unions, the essay will first examine how unions have previously advocated for redistributive social policies and their successes as a result. It will then consider the current conditions in which paid family leave exists and its present challenges. Finally, a case for how unions can sustain change will be made by offering a comparison of Sweden's model for parental leave that can serve as a guide for future policy adoption.

Publication Date

Spring 2024

Document Type