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Let's Celebrate Working Families and Put Partisan Bickering in a Timeout

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I spent the day Wednesday in a conference on disability status and employment. And lo and behold amidst all the discussion of data points and analysis (very intriguing and super interesting to a policy geek like me) were a number of familiar work-life effectiveness ideas.

Teleworking, workplace flexibility, and health and wellness were all hot topics. And it struck me again that these are conversations that affect nearly everyone who has ever held a job -- yet somehow all too often get overshadowed by partisan bickering.

Right now, even during National Work and Family Month and National Disability awareness month, a lot of the debate and national discussion continues to center on partisan disagreements. The U.S. Senate is tentatively scheduled to vote Tuesday to pass the commemorative resolution dedicating October 2013 as National Work and Family Month, but somehow getting senators to commit their support for this needed bipartisan national public awareness campaign, celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is harder than it should be.

Sincere thanks go to Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) for sponsoring the resolution and bringing it forward, but why aren't more members of Congress willing to go on record and support a resolution that solely acknowledges the importance of supporting families -- in all shapes and sizes -- that juggle the demands of work and family? It's really unfortunate.

Instead of supporting great workplaces and working families, and considering workplace legislation that could improve workplaces across the U.S., our federal leaders and national media seem insistent on arguing the same issues over and over again, drawing party battle lines, acting like toddlers in the sandbox fighting over the same square inch of sand.

We should expect and demand more from our elected leaders. This week's September job numbers report continues to show that the U.S. economy is not growing at a sufficient rate.

Everyone talks about creating jobs, but instead of just talking, pointing fingers and labeling programs job killers, what if politicians showed businesses that they are serious about rewarding employers that value their employees and invest in employee benefits that allow working families to achieve success within and outside the workplace? Wouldn't that be a refreshing discussion to hear?

Dedicating a month to work and family issues encourages all workplaces and employees to pause and reflect on work-life effectiveness. It also provides annual recognition of the importance of employer-sponsored work-life programs in attracting, motivating and retaining employees especially in the state of the economy today.

But how do we leverage the coverage and the visibility we get in October to a long term dialogue and then ideally real policy improvements? How do we get elected leaders and business leaders to work together towards supporting workplace policies that empower employees to succeed at work and at home?

Maybe the first step needs to be listening and not always assuming an idea that may be good for business will hurt workers and vice versa. Not all policy discussions need to be so politicized.