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Reno to executives: Families come first

Attorney General Janet Reno warned business executives and older people Friday that they need to do more to help the nation "reweave the fabric of family around our children."

Older people who think, "I've done my duty, I took care of my family and I don't want to invest money in programs for families" are making a mistake, she told the annual fund-raising luncheon of the Women's Legal Defense Fund.

Unless the nation "makes investments to keep families, the best caregivers, together, 15 years from now there will not be enough money in the country to build the prisons that will be needed and your pension will not be worth the paper it's written on," she said.

To business executives, she said it will not be enough to comply with the newly enacted Family and Medical Leave Act, which was originally drafted by the defense fund a decade ago. It requires unpaid leave to be given to workers who care for a sick child or other close relative.

"We've got to make sure that in every workplace in America, employers understand that families have to come first, that we ought to be able to keep profits up while freeing people to be with their families a little bit more than we do."

Reno mentioned a program she had inaugurated as prosecutor in Dade County. It gave parents in her office time off "to participate in their child's school program, to be a room mother, to participate in a counseling program," she said. "And if you didn't have children, you could volunteer in a school program if you wanted to."

She said she was amazed at how many teachers sought her out to thank her for that program.