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Today Philadelphia becomes the 20th location in the U.S. to enact a law guaranteeing that workers can earn paid sick days. It’s the third time City Council has passed such a measure but the first time the mayor will sign it. This third time has nothing to do with charm and everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.

The organizing components aren’t hard to identify. It started with the broad and diverse Philadelphia Healthy Families and Workplaces Coalition, dozens of groups concerned about ending poverty and caring for seniors, about gender and racial justice, about the well-being of kids and about economic growth.

The coalition included low-wage workers looking for a small but significant reform that would let them hang on to their paychecks and their jobs when they or a loved one was ill. As restaurant worker Jason McCarthey put it, "There's a sick worker at nearly every restaurant in this city every day. We should be able to stay home and not spread germs when we're sick."

Also involved were business owners like Fatima Hassan, owner of Places and Spaces for Growth Early Learning Center, who testified that “lack of paid sick days would cost my child care center more from outbursts of pink eye or flu” than any expense for providing the time. These employers pointed out that they, too, are the business community – and refused to let corporate lobbyists opposing the measure speak for them.

Strong Champion
A second key to success was a strong legislative champion, in this case, Councilman Bill Greenlee. He faced down Mayor Nutter when he vetoed the bill twice and grabbed the opportunity when Nutter created an opening by setting up a task force on the issue. Greenlee shepherded a core of the Council who were always in favor and worked with the coalition to garner even more support. The coalition was persistent in roping in those who wavered.

They were also savvy about the danger of conservative state legislators who wanted the state to intervene and prevent local governments from making their own decisions on paid sick days.  Again and again, the coalition worked to expose the danger and head it off at the pass. When opponents tried to stick their measure onto a popular bill concerned with domestic violence, they underestimated the coalition’s connection to domestic violence groups. Those advocates made it clear they’d kill their own bill before allowing it to pass with a provision that would prevent domestic violence victims from getting paid time to seek the care they need. The bill passed – without the amendment.

Also important to success in Philly was the growing momentum around the country. As more and more cities and several states took action, evidence grew that shredded the opponents’ predictions of doom. Philly’s Task Force noted that paid sick days provide “a measure of job security and income stability.”

Philadelphians without paid sick days saw that people just like them were winning in other places and took heart. Mayor DeBlasio’s successful win in New York against a candidate who’d long blocked a vote on paid sick days, as well as other elected officials who ran on their support for the issue, and numerous polls showing overwhelming public support across the political spectrum, may well have influenced Mayor Nutter. A legacy of brokering a deal on paid sick days looks a lot better than being the guy who obstructed it.

The Philly coalition learned lessons from their counterparts in these other coalitions. They were able to get resources and support from Family Values @ Work and other partners.

Intrepid Leader
One final key to success: an intrepid coalition leader, Marianne Bellesorte. At a recent hearing on the bill, Greenlee said it should be called “The Marianne Bellesorte Earned Sick Time Law.” With a steady hand, unbending heart and astounding grace, Marianne worked around pregnancy, a cancer diagnosis, chemo, surgery and radiation.  Her illness only strengthened her belief that all the city’s workers needed the time her job already guarantees.

“Without access to earned sick days, I probably would have put off the appointment that led to my diagnosis,” Marianne testified. “Without access to earned sick days, I don’t know how I could have afforded to take the time for chemotherapy – or surgery – or radiation.”

“And the need for earned sick days didn’t end with me,” she pointed out. “Paid time off meant that I never had chemotherapy without a family member by my side. It meant that I wasn’t alone on the day when I heard the doctor say ‘It’s malignant’ while my baby kicked me. It meant that when chemotherapy demolished my immune system to the point where I wasn’t even allowed near fresh flowers, I didn’t have to worry about coworkers bringing their illness to the office. But because not everyone has earned sick days, I did have to worry about the cashier at the grocery store, the clerk at the drug store, and the servers at any restaurant I ate at.”

Today we celebrate Philly’s win at the very moment Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Patty Murray are re-introducing a federal paid sick days bill, the Healthy Families Act. Its way is being paved by places like Philadelphia, champions like Bill Greenlee, strong coalitions and leaders like Marianne Bellesorte – and by all of us getting involved.


Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 03:04 PM PDT

Preserving Democracy in Pennsylvania

by ellenbravo

It had all the trappings of an ALEC-backed attack on democracy:  Push out a bill prohibiting local governments from passing workplace protections in their own communities. If all else failed, tack the measure onto some popular bill as an amendment and hope the supporters of that bill would want it badly enough to allow the hostile amendment to stand.

Only this time the strategy didn’t work, thanks to the strong stand of progressive legislators and the smart organizing of a broad coalition – particularly the leadership of anti-violence advocates.

In this case, the state was Pennsylvania. The preemption attempt was aimed at stopping future passage of a municipal paid sick days ordinance. And the popular bill held hostage was one to aid those who experience domestic violence.

First Rep. Seth Grove, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Councilor “ALEC,”  tried to pass a stand-alone bill that would take away the right of local units of government to pass laws ensuring workers could earn paid sick days – or even unpaid leave. Other legislators added multiple amendments to the bill that would have required every elected official to take votes that might have been unpopular with their constituents. The measure didn’t move.

So another ALEC member, John Eichelberger, decided to try a different tack:  stick the preemption provision as an amendment onto a bipartisan bill to help those experiencing domestic violence.  HB 1796 was written to exempt victims of domestic violence from “nuisance ordinances” that allow landlords to evict those who call 911 more than a certain number of times within a given period. The bill had passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

The preemption seekers assumed advocates in the area of domestic violence would not let anything stand in the way of passage of their bill. They assumed wrong. Instead, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and other organizations let it be known they would not support their own bill if the amendment were included.

After calls and emails and lots of social media, a number of legislators on both sides of the aisle decided they had to return the domestic violence bill to its original, unamended version. That bill then passed unanimously.

“We’re delighted to see that our Senators prevailed over the tactics of corporate lobbyists and donors who tried to hijack a non-controversial bill protecting domestic violence victims, ” said Marianne Bellesorte of PathWays PA, chair of the PA Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces. “We applaud the leadership of the domestic violence groups and other advocates for ensuring these corporate lobbyists didn’t get away with sneaking a controversial preemption bill through the legislature by hitching it to a good bill to protect those who experience domestic violence.

“We ask that legislators put their energy behind passing – not preventing – earned sick days legislation statewide,” said Bellesorte. “Earned sick days help strengthen families and the economy.  The policy keeps working Pennsylvanians from having to choose between going to work sick or losing a day’s wages – or worse, a job. Instead of undermining democracy and local control, we need to work toward solutions that help – not hurt – our state’s working families.”

The Pennsylvania attempt is the most recent of a string of efforts backed by ALEC, the National Restaurant Association and other special interests to limit not just who can vote, but what they can vote for.  

In August 2011, members of ALEC shared a paid sick days preemption bill signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the group’s meeting New Orleans with its Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee. Participants received a target list and map of state and local paid sick days policies prepared by the National Restaurant Association.  

So far 11 states have passed laws prohibiting voters or legislators in local communities from passing paid sick days – and in some cases other workplace protections. Two of those, Oklahoma and Alabama, passed in 2014. But similar efforts this year failed in Washington, South Carolina and now Pennsylvania – a place that had been declared a priority by the PA Restaurant Association.

As activists around the country celebrate a growing string of wins on paid sick days, special interests who are finding it much harder to squash them.


Girshriela Green got involved the day someone called saying he wanted to make a change at Walmart – the corporation that had left her seriously injured from overwork and seriously underpaid. “I was sitting at home in a neck brace,” she said, “going, how did I land here – I was a model employee, I exceeded all expectations, and I’m sitting here broken.”

When she returned to work, Girshriela needed light duty because she was still recovering from the injury and because she was pregnant. She had trouble getting accommodations and began to hear from other women who were afraid to tell their manager they were pregnant. “Shouldn't nobody be scared to tell someone you’re starting a family,” says Girshriela. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

She and a few other Walmart workers started a private facebook group that led to a house meeting in Texas. Chrissy Creech organized the gathering after her manager kept saying she’d have to wait for a bathroom break. On many occasions the pregnant Chrissy held her water for hours, until the day she started bleeding – and then she quit.

Chrissy’s mother was at that house party. She reached over and touched her daughter’s stomach. “They need to respect this bump,” she said. The group got its name.

More and more women began sharing their stories. When Tiffany Beroid posted her account of being forced to take an unpaid leave because Walmart wouldn’t accommodate her doctor’s suggestion that she stay off her feet, the post got 900 likes. The group kept growing.

Working with attorneys at the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance, Respect the Bump scored some victories for individual workers. Group members were among Walmart workers who rallied at shareholders’ meetings. They submitted a shareholders proposal to change the pregnancy policy - and Walmart quickly made changes to forestall a public debate at the meeting. Management announced it would accommodate those with temporary disabilities related to pregnancy.

But that didn’t help Thelma Moore in Chatham, IL. After working at the Chatham store for 10 days, a pregnant Thelma was shopping and had two TVs fall on her. She needed time to recuperate to prevent a miscarriage and heal from her injuries, but her manager said she had to come back to work. Thelma filed a lawsuit; shortly afterwards, she was fired.

So Respect the Bump decided to show up in person at her store. A couple dozen members, several of them pregnant, many with their babies or toddlers in tow, joined Thelma September 24 at the Chatham store along with clergy and other allies to demand Thelma’s job back. The group launched a social media storm to get 200 calls into Walmart to investigate what happened to Thelma and fix it.

One of the protesters was Bene’t Holmes. After being denied light duty at the same store, Bene’t miscarried in her fourth month. She became a Respect the Bump leader and was recognized by President Obama at the White House as a Champion for Change.

Another was Jasmine Dixon, an overnight stocker in Commerce City, Colorado. Although she brought in numerous notes from her doctor saying Jasmine needed to be on the day shift, management would not accommodate her. Instead, they tried to terminate her for having “too many absences.” “We’re still going back and forth over it,” she said.

“I’m here to stand up for myself and other pregnant women, all over the world,” Thelma told the other Respect the Bump members as they met the day before the action. What she and the others are asking for is staggeringly simple. They want Walmart to live up to its new policy, but also to improve it. All pregnant women aren’t disabled but they all could use a bottle of water at the register, a couple extra bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on from time to time, a more reasonable lifting policy. And they want decent pay and working conditions like paid sick days for all Walmart employees.

These Walmart workers are part of a surge of low-wage worker organizing. Their hashtags tell it all: #wearehere. #WEmatter.

They want to make sure pregnancy doesn’t cost a single worker her pay or her job, not to mention her unborn child. And they will not be stopped.


Twenty-one. This number has come to symbolize adulthood. It means good luck in cards. But when it comes to the Family and Medical Leave Act, twenty-one stands for “too damn long” – too little progress over too many years.

On August 5, 1993, Congress implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), six months after President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law. For the first time, the United States established the principle that having a baby shouldn’t cost you your job or your health insurance. The law recognized that fathers as well as mothers need time to bond with newborns and that new babies aren’t the only ones who need care. Children, spouses and parents also experience occasional injuries or serious illness and need a hand. And each of us may need time to care for ourselves.

The FMLA includes up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for those purposes. If you’re eligible, your employer has to keep your job open and continue to pay any contributions they make toward health insurance.

It was a good start. Ask Vivien Mikhail in Maine, who used FMLA when her 16-month-old daughter suddenly lost her hearing, or Jennifer Pelton in Maryland, who was able to care for her medically fragile twins, how much it means to know your job and health care will still be there after dealing with family crisis. In fact, FMLA has been used more than 100 million times, with great success. More than half the time people used it for a personal illness. Men as well as women were also able to take time to welcome a new baby, tend to a seriously ill child, and care for an ailing parent or spouse.

But the law excludes a huge chunk of the workforce – 40 percent – thanks to restrictions specifying that it applies only to companies of 50 or more, and covers only those who’ve been at that employer for at least a year and work at least 25 hours a week on average. Employers can always be more generous than the law and many are, but not enough.

FMLA doesn’t cover routine illness. Fortunately most kids don’t get leukemia, but they do all get stomach flus and nasty coughs; parents who follow doctor’s orders to keep them home can find themselves without a paycheck or sometimes their job. The law has a narrow definition of family, excluding siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Same-sex couples who are legally married are covered if they live in a marriage equality state (and soon, anywhere in the U.S). And did I mention that the leave is unpaid?

So Melissa Bravo in North Carolina had a baby and would have been covered – except she hadn’t been on the job for a year and was let go. Tyler Corvin had to go back to work a week after his wife delivered by caesarean section. He really wanted to help care for her and the baby, but the couple couldn’t afford the financial hit.

Family values can’t end at the workplace door. We need workplace policies for the 21st century. That means fixing the FMLA to cover everyone and every family.

It means making wage replacement possible through the use of a social insurance fund, as three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – have already done. More states want to do so. The $5 million State Paid Leave Fund proposed in the President’s budget would help, as will a smaller pot already made available by the Department of Labor.

But ultimately we need a national fund to cover everyone, such as the one that would be established under the FAMILY Act, (H.R.3712/S.1810), introduced by Senator Gillibrand in the Senate and Rep. Rosa DeLauro in the House. By pooling small contributions from employees and employers, this fund would enable those needing leave to have some vital income during an already challenging time.  

We also need paid sick days – as nine cities and one state have already won - for those stomach flus and nasty coughs. More wins are on the horizon.

Let’s be honest. The laws we’re talking about in this country are minimum standards that are truly minimal. Think of Iceland, which has 9 months of paid leave – 3 for mothers, 3 for fathers, and 3 to share, paid for by a combination of national and employer funds; the country is moving to 12 months by 2016. If Iceland is too far away, think of Canada, where mothers of newborns can take 50 weeks at 55 percent pay.

What we’re fighting for is too damn little, but it’s a start. Join us – it’s been too damn long.

This article originally appeared in,


More than a quarter million New Yorkers got a big boost yesterday when the City Council voted 45-6 to expand its paid sick days law. In a city where “a lot of people are one paycheck away from disaster,” as Mayor de Blasio put it in an interview with Chris Hayes, the vote constituted an important step to “change the rules and raise the floor.”

The New York win added to the growing momentum of the paid sick days movement across the country. Behind each victory lies an important shift in this country: more workers seeing the possibility of change when they take action together, and more elected officials recognizing they need to be on the side of an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.

The New York legislation will require businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick time to its employees, as opposed to the current law that applies only to businesses with 15 or more employees. The legislation will now cover manufacturing firms, and extends the statute of limitations for complaints to three years from 270 days. Amendments also strengthen the ability of the enforcement agency to take proactive measures, such as audits and inspections, to ensure compliance with the law. And the expanded bill contains a more appropriate definition of family member, so workers can use a sick day to care for a grandparent, grandchild or siblings, not just a child or partner.

The New York City Earned Sick Time Act was originally adopted in June of 2013. The new legislation was sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin after being proposed last month by Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. It carries out the original demands of the broad coalition that worked for three years to pass the bill and comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio's election, in which paid sick days played a pivotal role. Fifty-five percent of those polled (58% of women) – and 58 percent of women voters – said the fact that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delayed action on paid sick days for three years made them less likely to vote for her.  An overwhelming majority (73%, and 78% of women) said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports policies like paid sick days.

For most of the 1.2 million New Yorkers who will be covered as of April 1 of this year, the new law is key to keeping them from falling off the financial brink. Rafael Navor, a Brooklyn father of three and member of Make the Road New York, described a time he had the flu for a week and did what public health officials tell us to do – stayed home until his symptoms were gone.

“When I returned to work, my boss ran me off the job,” said Navor, a construction worker. “Unfortunately, this type of retaliation is very common in the construction industry. Paid sick days are a necessity for all workers and not a luxury. For construction workers like myself, who normally work with smaller firms, the new expansion of paid sick days is critical – and I want to thank and congratulate the City Council for today's vote."

The law’s new changes will help workers like Navor in smaller businesses who are least likely to have access to paid sick time now. The 2013 Unheard Third survey by the NY Community Service Society found that 64 percent of workers employed by businesses with fewer than 15 workers lack paid sick days compared to 38 percent of those in larger firms. According to Nancy Rankin, CSS Vice President for Policy Research , “the original law would have left out more than a quarter of workers who needed paid sick time.”

Public health professionals were among those speaking out in support of the expanded bill because lack of paid sick days has such an impact on public health. "Germs and viruses cannot discriminate between job sector or the size of the business, only attacking the immune system of workers of a particular industry or after first verifying there are more than 20 employees in the business," said Dr. Flavio Casoy, Executive Vice President for the Committee of Interns/SEIU Healthcare.

National and local support of paid sick days legislation continues to grow. The hearing comes just a few weeks after the Washington State House passed a statewide paid sick days bill and a month after Newark unanimously passed paid sick days, guaranteeing 38,000 workers will no longer have to choose between their paycheck and their health or the health of their family. In December, Jersey City passed the first earned sick days law in New Jersey. That same month Washington, DC expanded its legislation, specifically to include tipped workers who had been left out when the bill first passed in 2008. These cities join San Francisco Seattle,; and Portland, Oregon in helping boost the economy by making sure workers can hang on to critical income when ill.  A number of other cities, including Tacoma, Washington and Eugene, Oregon, have active campaigns and many more are in the works. Several states, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Maryland, are vying to join Connecticut in guaranteeing statewide protection.

Look for the issue of paid time to care to play a role in many local, state and federal elections this November. Voters want to know who’s on their side – and paid sick days is a key indicator.


Why are opponents so concerned about local communities deciding what’s best for the health and welfare of their residents?

Because these naysayers, fueled by lobbyists and financing from mega corporations, know such reforms lead to change statewide and nationally. Local wins provide living proof that minimum standards like paid sick days and paid family leave benefit families, businesses, public health and the economy. And growing victories tear to shreds the opponents’ predictions of doom.

That’s why Family Values @ Work is proud to present a blog carnival of Voices from the Statesin honor of the 21st anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The FMLA had a long birth – nine years in the making, twice passed by Congress and twice vetoed by George H. W. Bush, and finally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It was a great first step in establishing that caring for a family shouldn’t cost you your job.

But the law leaves out 40 percent of the workforce. Many who are covered can’t use the time. According to a 2012 study, two and a half times as many people as in 2000 were eligible and needing leave but didn’t take it, mostly because they couldn’t afford it. FMLA has a narrow definition of family (child, legally married spouse, parent). Siblings, grandparents and grandchildren apparently aren’t family. Neither are same-sex couples unless they’re legally married and living in a state with marriage equality.

The FMLA also doesn’t cover routine illness. If you’re eligible, you can take FMLA leave to care for your mom after she has a stroke – but you can still be fired or docked pay for taking her to the doctor to get her blood pressure down and prevent a stroke in the first place.

The good news is, in all parts of our nation, activists are building broad and diverse coalitions, raising awareness of the need for and the enormous benefits from new workplace protections. In our blog carnival, you’ll hear about workers and business partners and other allies who have gotten involved. You’ll see the various kinds of change our member coalitions are working for – and winning (new paid sick days standards in 8 cities and one state, paid family leave in 3 states, and many more wins on the horizon). You’ll hear from strong labor partners.

And you’ll get a whiff of the momentum building throughout this land that will eventually bring us new national standards.

From President Obama to federal, state and local elected officials, to editorial boards in prominent dailies and small weeklies, the call is growing.

As the president put it in his State of the Union speech, every woman “deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Join our 21 coalitions in working to end the madness.


2014 promises another string of wins for policies like paid sick days that boost the economic security of families and of the economy overall.  Recently two political leaders reminded us of the urgency of our task.

On New Year’s Day, Bill de Blasio spoke to a large audience at his inauguration as the 109th mayor of New York City. There he affirmed his commitment to take on the issue of inequality – and began his list of policy changes with expanding the city’s new paid sick days law:

“When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won't be easy; it will require all that we can muster. And it won't be accomplished only by me; it will be accomplished by all of us - those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.

You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law -- because no one should be forced to lose a day's pay, or even a week's pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won't wait.”

As Mayor de Blasio pointed out, the urgency of the “inequality crisis… is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds.” Like the thousands of activists across the country fighting for and winning paid sick days, Mayor deBlasio understands that we wage this fight “not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people,” and because “our responsibility to each other - our common cause - is to leave no [one] behind.”

Just a few weeks earlier, former President Bill Clinton spoke at an event for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.  President Clinton began by describing cities as models for innovation, a place where “you start with a challenge, a problem or an opportunity, you figure out how to solve it and you work through to a practical solution.” And the example he gave was paid sick days.

“I’m really excited about what the mayor’s doing here,” President Clinton said. “I hope you support what he did on paid leave.  I hope you’re proud of the fact that Jersey City is only the sixth city in the country to do that. That’s a big deal. Why? Because one of the key challenges of a growing country is to get men and women into the workforce while their kids are still young. In order to do that, you have to make it possible for people to balance work and family. So this sick leave deal is a big thing.”

The new laws in Portland, Oregon and SeaTac, Washington went into effect on January 1. Watch for Newark, NJ to bring in the next win later this week as campaigns heat up in cities and states across the country. Our coalitions will continue to prevail because families need this change now - and more leaders are championing these policies because it’s smart politics, given the widespread, bipartisan support.


Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 04:00 PM PDT

Father's Day Gift that Keeps Giving

by ellenbravo

co-written with Stewart D. Friedman, Practice Professor of Management, Wharton School

On this Father’s Day, too many fathers have to choose between the family they love and the job they need. That’s a choice no one should ever have to make.

If we want Father’s Day to be more than a Hallmark holiday, we need to become a nation that truly honors fathers – by making sure their workplaces welcome their parenting role. Our social policies must evolve so that our espoused values – that we care about families – catch up to the new reality that women are in the workforce outside the home and men want to have rich lives outside of work.  Working moms need help from their mates, working dads have a paternal need and desire to be with their children, and our children – the unseen stakeholders at work – need the love and attention of their parents.

The two of us have spent a lot of time helping working fathers find ways to have both fruitful work lives and fulfilling family lives. We’re both concerned about the statistics on how little time men spend with their new babies – usually a week or less.  And we’re both parents of sons whom, we hope, will someday be able to be fathers who are as engaged as their spouses in their children’s lives, the glorious moments and the mundane ones.

Study after study of young men finds that the new generation of working fathers wants the kind of workplace options for which working mothers have been clamoring for decades. We know that many more men would be able to be the kind of involved fathers (and sons, and husbands) they want to be if they weren’t punished for it on the job.

We may seem like an odd pair — a management professor and a grassroots organizer — to be writing about the need for affordable family leave. But this is an issue that should garner support across the spectrum. This is an area where the moral imperative – the greater good – braids beautifully with the bottom line, as well as saving taxpayer dollars. We can all come together on making time with family available and affordable.

The truth is, only 11 percent of U.S. employees have paid family leave from their employers. The one public policy that covers time off to care for new children, the Family and Medical Leave Act, excludes two-fifths of the workforce. And millions of people who are eligible and need leave don’t take it, mainly because it’s unpaid.

On Father’s Day we urge more workplaces to step up to the plate to offer paid paternity leave, actively encourage men to take it, and offer flexible schedules. We’ve seen the results at many companies that know that real leaders have real lives and, paradoxically, when men and women are allowed to spend time on what matters most to them, they are able to be more effective and productive economically at work.  

Too often those who manage these policies inform men about the leave they’re eligible for, but then directly or indirectly question their dedication and commitment to the firm if they actually use it – or expect them to be on call while caring for a newborn.

We also need public policy changes, to expand who’s eligible for FMLA and to make it affordable. Family and medical leave insurance funds like the ones established in California and New Jersey, where employees pay a small amount into an insurance pool and can then draw wages while they’re out on leave, would make a huge difference in the lives of parents and children.

Research shows us that a program like this increases men’s role in caregiving by making it possible for them to be involved without the family taking a big financial hit. In California, for example, fathers' leave-taking for bonding with a new child rose 12 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Every child gets routine ailments like stomach flu and pink eye – ailments that schools and child care centers cannot accommodate, but are not covered by the FMLA. Right now, about 40 % of workers in the private sector do not earn paid time off when they or a child is sick. For those fathers, missing work to stay home with a sick child could result in losing pay and possibly their jobs.

Instead of punishing working fathers, more employers should welcome and embrace men in their dual roles as financial providers and engaged presence in the home.  

This Sunday as we celebrate all the wonderful and remarkable fathers across the nation, let us honor those fathers by expanding the ways in which public policy can support families across the board. Policies like family and medical leave insurance programs and earned sick days will make it easier for all fathers to shoulder not just the financial responsibilities of a family but also the day-to-day caring for loved ones when they need it.

We encourage lawmakers and employers to consider a gift fathers will never forget – affordable time to be good fathers.

@FmlyValuesWork      @StewFriedman      @Wharton


Listen up, working moms and dads:  Rep. Eric Cantor has a deal for you - more time to spend with your family! What’s not to like?

Except for one hitch: You get to spend more time with your family only after you’ve been forced to spend more time at work away from your family. And your boss gets to decide when you take that extra time you’ve earned.

After some reflection on why women have deserted the Republican Party, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech laying out the GOP plan to “Make Life Work” for working families.

Enter the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Cantor and his Tea Party colleague Rep. Martha Roby. Instead of being paid time and a half for overtime, workers may be offered comp time – a paid hour and a half off in the future in exchange for an extra hour on the job this week.

Need to go to your kid’s school play? Take your dad to the doctor? Heck – you could even save time for when the baby is born. Whatever you like.

Here’s the problem: the boss may decide that the slot you requested could “unduly disrupt” the business, reject your request, and tell you to take the time when work is slow. The comp time you are allowed to use may not coincide with your kid’s play, your dad’s cholesterol check or the baby’s arrival – but hey, we can all be a little flexible, right?

Also, those who need overtime to pay the bills are likely to be passed over when the overtime shifts are assigned; for them this bill represents a pay cut. Supervisors may well prefer co-workers who say they’re fine with comp time instead.

Workers already have a working families flexibility bill – it’s called the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed 65 years ago. Because workers had been burdened by inordinate work hours, the new law put a 40-hour-a-week limit on how much employers can require employees to work and a price on additional hours. That created a disincentive for employers to force workers to spend more time away from their families.  

This new Cantor/Roby bill does nothing to address mandatory overtime.  By making it possible for employers not to pay for overtime and offer comp time at an unspecified future date convenient for the employer, this bill provides an incentive to require long hours on the job.

Right now, there’s nothing stopping employers from letting employees rearrange their schedules to fit in a school play or doctor’s appointment. It’s standard practice at many firms.

And those who work a lot of overtime and don’t need more money can take unpaid days off. That, too, is an option now.

This bill may declare that employees, not employers, can choose whether or not to take comp time or pay, but it ignores the reality that most workers have no control over their hours or working conditions. Violations by employers of wage and hour laws are rampant, and many unscrupulous employers take advantage of a weak economy in which workers fear for their jobs if they speak up.

In many cases, employees will work extra hours and accrue comp time they will never be paid because employers will declare bankruptcy or go out of business.

During the debates in the 1990s on this issue, the corporate-funded National Federation of Independent Businesses promoted the idea of comp time because it gave them “something . . . [to] offer in exchange" for getting overtime hours.  Put simply, comp time as envisioned here gives the employer more control over scheduling and the employee less money to earn.  Rep. Cantor saying his plan is meant to help working families does not make it so.

Want to make life work? Ensure people don’t have to work extra hours to cover the basics or care for their families by:
•    guaranteeing they can earn paid sick days.
•    making family and medical leave more accessible and affordable.
•    fixing the minimum wage to adjust for lost value and index it to inflation. (If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be $10.56 per hour.)
•    guaranteeing minimum hours and predictable schedules, so that millions of workers can earn enough and plan their family time.
•    passing equal pay measures.
•    removing barriers to collective bargaining.

Workers desperately want more time with their families, more control over their hours, and fair compensation.  The Cantor/Roby bill would make it harder for them to have any of the above.  


Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:51 AM PST

Flu Prevention? Try Paid Sick Days

by ellenbravo

Ask Adela Valdez how it feels to hear public health experts on TV explain ways to limit a flu outbreak. Get a flu shot, wash your hands, they advise – and if you get the flu, stay home until 24 hours after your fever’s gone.

“One day, I had a fever but I went to work anyway,” Adela said. She’d worked for three years in a factory in New York making expensive lamps. “On the third day, I still had a fever. I felt very sick and I asked permission to go to the hospital.”

Her supervisor’s response? “Fine, go to the hospital, but don’t come back. I need people who come here to work, not to get sick.”

Adela lost her job.

Some management consultants acknowledge that sick workers may spread the flu to co-workers out of fear that they’ll be fired if they stay home to recover.

“The economy is still on shaky ground and many workers continue to be worried about losing their jobs,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an outplacement consulting firm. “In this environment, workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days.  Of course, this has significant negative consequences for the workplace, where the sick worker is not only performing at a reduced capacity but also likely to infect others.”

The fear is real. University of Chicago researchers found nearly one in four workers reported that they or a family member had been fired, suspended, punished or threatened with being fired for taking time off due to personal illness or to care for a sick child or other relative.

And job loss isn’t the only fear. In this economy, who can afford to lose even one day’s pay?

Ask the people who serve our food, clean our offices, and care for our elderly. They’re among those -- half the workforce and three fourths of low-wage workers -- who lack paid sick days.

As a Miami cook put it, “Every penny goes somewhere. I have no choice but to suck it up if I’m sick.”

More than one-third of flu cases are transmitted in schools and workplaces. Those same Chicago researchers asked respondents, “Have you ever had to go to work when you were sick with a contagious illness like the flu?” Nearly 70 percent of those lacking paid sick days answered, "Yes.”

Studies show that when sick workers stay home, the number of people affected by pandemic flu can be reduced by 15 to 34 percent, according to Jonathan Heller, director of Human Impact Partners.

“Having an effective leave policy is critical in preventing an office-wide outbreak of the flu,” says John Challenger. “You want to encourage workers to stay home when they are sick so they do not spread illness to co-workers.  You also want them to stay home to care for sick children so they are not forced to go to school and spread the virus to other kids.”

Talk to public school teachers and nurses.  They’ll tell you how many children come to school sick, or can’t get picked up if they fall ill during class because their parents have no paid sick time. They’ll describe the heartbreak of having a child say, “Please don’t call my mom. She’ll get in trouble if you do.” They’ll give you examples of kids – sometimes as young as 8 years old – who miss school to care for a younger sibling.

The majority of states reporting flu cases now say the outbreak is at “severe” levels. To avoid the spread of germs, we have to ensure that no one will lose income or a job for staying home sick.  

If you live in one of the cities or states pushing for an earned sick days policy now, raise your voice to elected officials.

Do it for your kids. Make sure your child doesn’t have to sit next to a classmate with the flu whose mom or dad couldn’t risk staying home.

Do it for yourself. Even if you have paid sick days, you don’t want to be served flu with your fries.  

In an economy where more and more families are living paycheck to paycheck, we need paid sick days to make sure that a public health crisis doesn’t become a financial crisis.  


Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM PST

Football and Family

by ellenbravo

I'm a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, but I have to hand it to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who was determined to be with his wife when she delivered their fourth child, even if it meant missing Sunday's game against the Texans.

Tillman told the press on Wednesday,"At the end of the day, (family is) all you have. This game is important to me, but after what we went through with my middle child, to me football will always be second or third in my life. That was a great lesson learned to teach me that when I'm done playing football my family will still always be there for me."  The player's second child was born with a serious heart condition.

Some fans were outraged. But Tilman's coach and teammates were fully supportive.

"It's family first," Bears Coach Lovie Smith said to The Chicago Sun Times. "If there is something you feel like you need to do for your family always do that. How we look at it is like an injury. If a player can't go, it's next guy up. We'll keep going."

Interestingly, several sports commentators echoed this sentiment. Rodney Harrison, now one of the hosts on Football Night in America, described a similar position he took when he played for the New England Patriots.  Asked what his coach, Bill Belichick had to say, Harrison replied, "Belichick didn't say anything. Had he said anything, I would've said I don't care how important the game is. Even if it's the Super Bowl, I'm going to be there when my baby is born. It was understood. I was going to be there for my kids."

Co-host Tony Dungy, former coach for the Indianapolis Colts, agreed. "My policy was, 'always be with your wife. Your wife is much more important than any football game.'"

Chicago lost Sunday's game, even with Tillman playing. The baby thoughtfully decided to wait until Monday to be born - a fact Tillman tweeted earlier in the week: @mikeandmike god, family, football... Baby is coming Monday don't worry I'll be there Sunday."

But the NFL and the country gained from this discussion and the strong stand of these athletes.


Two thousand workers who clean the rooms and serve the food at hotels in Long Beach, California had special cause for celebration election night. They will finally earn a living wage and be able take a sick day without risking a paycheck or a job.

“I have said all along that the second thing I would do when Measure N passes is take my family off of public assistance,” said Maria Patlan, a ten-year housekeeper in Long Beach's hotel industry. “But the first thing I will do is a dance of joy.”

Maria and scores of workers like her helped lead the diverse Long Beach coalition that organized for months to pass the ballot initiative that became known as Measure N. It establishes a minimum wage of $13/hr (about $2,000 a month) in Long Beach's hotels employing 100 or more, guarantees workers can earn five sick days a year, and protects their tips.

What does this mean for the economy? Economists project the measure will add about $7 million annually into the local economy, creating and sustaining 85 jobs and generating an estimated $800,000 in tax revenues.

As May Salem, owner of a local small business put it, "If Long Beach workers see a bump in their paycheck, they’ll spend more money in Long Beach stores. Storeowners like me will hire more people. That money doesn’t leave the community. It improves it.”

A Better Return on Investment
“This victory is good for Long Beach and will be so helpful for hotel workers, who may even see this increase in time for the holidays,” said Christine Petit, a campaign co-chair and member of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Economy. “Long Beach residents have supported the hotel industry with our tax money. We didn't feel like poverty wages were a good return on that investment.”

The measure becomes law ten days after certification by the Long Beach City Council, which can happen as soon as 28 days after the election.

Roxana Tynan, Executive Director of LAANE, linked this win to the growing movement for paid sick days.  "Connecting to the national network of paid sick days activists has provided critical inspiration, lessons learned, and expert technical advice - including research about relative levels of paid sick days in a range of Long Beach industries - that was extremely helpful," she noted.

Broad and Diverse Coalition
Leaders pointed to the broad and diverse coalition that made this victory possible.

“The coalition that has supported this measure is as beautiful and diverse as Long Beach itself,” said Rev. Jerald M. Stinson, Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach. He was referring to groups that ranged from AnakBayan Los Angeles, Clergy Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) South Bay and several unions to East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Khmer Girls in Action (KGA). Supporters included the majority of local elected officials and a long list of individuals, including many small business owners.

“Communities of faith, small business owners, hotel workers, and ordinary Long Beach residents came together to shine a light on the poverty living in the shadows of one of our most critical industries,” Rev. Stinson added. “Measure N will make a big difference for a lot of families who have been working hard but not seeing progress.”

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