How the hell does something that is supported by 83% of the left and 71% of the right not only not exist in America, but almost exclusively does not exist in America? According to the documentary Zero Weeks, the U.S. and Papa New Guinea are the only countries that do not have a paid family leave law at the federal level. Meaning that while certain companies might offer it, they have no obligation to. As one person in the documentary states, it comes down to a “boss lottery.”
When I was considerably younger I once worked the phones for the Disability and Leave department of a large company. As such I was part of just one of multiple groups of people employees might have to call to inquire about what they qualified for, depending on whether their leave was related to an on-the-job injury, maternity leave, illness of a child or spouse, bereavement, long-term illness, short-term disability, and anything else I might not be thinking of. We had multiple departments handling the different specifics and sometimes people would get lobbed back and forth because one group’s system was different from another’s, and what we could do on our end was limited compared to what another department could handle, and they in turn could only do so much as well before passing you off, so on and so forth.
It sometimes seemed like it was specifically designed to be a headache, and by and large our policies just seemed to be stuff we had internally made up. But at least we had something. Being a large company in which some people did very physical work, it was somewhat necessary, if not built to be convenient for someone who’s already enduring a hardship.
On the other hand, I’ve worked for smaller companies that wouldn’t have to provide any sort of leave beyond the unpaid rights offered by FMLA, and if a company is small enough they don’t even have to offer that protection.
Fortunately, I’ve never actually been in position where I absolutely needed to take such leave. Unfortunately, that means it hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of my mind very often, which is part of the problem, highlighted early in Zero Weeks. Most people don’t think about this sort of thing until it impacts them, which it likely will, directly or indirectly, sooner or later.
And again, a clear majority of people from “both sides” (ugh) are apparently for it. It finally seems to have some political momentum here in 2020. But of course there are the particulars that impede progression. People want to score political points and have things their way so they can claim a win over their rivals. And, as always, there are powerful ideologues behind the scenes who have never cared about what the majority supports, but what keeps their ideology strong and keeps them empowered, and keeps workers weakened. Giving federally government-backed leverage to employees just sickens them.
I know I’m focusing more on the issue here than the documentary itself. Well, I’ve never really reviewed a documentary before, and I kind of feel like the great ones are sort of self-evident in terms of what they do well. Ky Dickens’ work here is great; it’s exactly what it needs to be. Informative, personal, efficiently delivered. When it gets emotional it’s because the real life circumstances are emotional, not because it’s pulling any tricks.
What I will say about documentaries in general, in this era, is that it feels like a roll of the dice to find one like this that’s so clear and clean in its delivery and subject matter. Which makes it such a shame that it appears to be so underseen. Just 16 (16!) ratings on IMDb. Just 6 reviews on Amazon, where you can watch it for free if you have Prime. The facebook page has 4-figure likes, so that’s somewhat heartening at least.
Still, just about any random documentary about aliens or some absurd conspiracy theory appears to have anywhere from 5-to-20x’s as much attention, if not even more. And this isn’t necessarily surprising when it comes to what steals the average person’s attention: there’s a reason why we see tabloids when checking out at the supermarket, as opposed to literary classics or important writing about history or philosophy, or even just more important news about the current state of the world. Nonetheless, it’s disheartening to see that bleed over into the world of documentaries.
So here I am to try to do my decidedly minimal part on my decidedly minimal platform to recommend a good documentary that is essential viewing for any working American. Watch Zero Weeks.
Final Verdict: What did I just say? It’s essential. Watch Zero Weeks.