Obama pushes for family-friendly workplaces at campaign-like 'summit'

Mon Jun 23, 2014 4:59pm EDT
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By Annika McGinnis and Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday directed the federal government to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules, part of his goal to make U.S. workplaces more family-friendly - and a broad pitch to Democratic voters ahead of November elections.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other top administration officials took turns telling their personal stories about the struggle to balance work and family at a campaign-style "summit" stacked with cheering Democratic supporters at a posh Washington hotel.

"I remember taking the night shift when Malia was born and when Sasha was born and being up at two in the morning and changing diapers and burping them and singing to them," Obama said, talking about his daughters, who are now teenagers.

"The point is, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off," he said. "I want every father and every child to have that opportunity."

Obama issued an order requiring federal agency heads to expand flexible workplace policies as much as possible. The goal is to make it easier for parents or workers to take care of family needs and to enable more people to find and keep jobs.

Praising businesses that have taken similar steps, Obama said family leave should be available across the country.

But the White House stopped short of making specific legislative proposals to provide family leave. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there were "a lot of different ways for addressing this problem" and the summit was more about having a "national conversation."

Obama said the event was not just about promoting ideas that are popular with women, who make up a big part of the Democratic base, ahead of November midterms.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House about the Iraq situation in Washington June 19, 2014.                   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque