In the News
Unions Help Make Family Friendly Workplaces
AFL-CIO Blog, July 16, 2009
By Seth Michaels
When it comes to protecting workers' ability to care for their families, union membership is a big boost, a new study confirms. It's yet another reason why in this tough economy we need to restore workers' freedom to form unions and bargain through the Employee Free Choice Act.
"Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?" was written by Jenifer MacGillvary of the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley and Netsy Firestein of the Labor Project for Working Families. Examining issues of work-life balance, paid leave and health benefits, MacGillvary and Firestein conclude:
Many (perhaps most) American workers find their "work-life" to be out of balance. Yet as has been the case with virtually all other aspects of employment, labor unions are leading the way in setting new standards. Unionized workers receive more generous family-friendly benefits than their nonunionized counterparts.
Here are a few of the report's key findings:
- Unions promote compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Union members are more likely to have heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act, have fewer worries about taking leave and are more likely to receive fully paid and partially paid leaves.
- Comparing hourly workers who take family and medical leave, 46 percent of unionized workers receive full pay while on leave compared to 29 percent of nonunionized workers.
- Unionized workers are 1.3 times as likely as nonunionized workers to be allowed to use their own sick time to care for a sick child, and they are 50 percent more likely than nonunionized workers to have paid personal leave that can be used to care for sick children.
- Companies with 30 percent or more unionized workers are five times as likely as companies with no unionized workers to pay the entire family health insurance premium. Even when unionized employees are required to pay part of their family insurance premium, they pay a much lower share of the premium than do nonunionized workers.
MacGillvary and Firestein also note union members are more likely to have access to resources like child care referrals, education assistance, vacation days and wellness programs.
Here's what AFL-CIO President John Sweeney had to say about the new report:
This report emphasizes a crucial point-that unions help families at a time when workers are forced to work more hours in an increasingly unstable environment, and as the social system in our country is being chipped away.A unionized workplace dramatically helps working families. According to the report, unions increase compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, ensure paid sick leave for employees and their children, and increase the likelihood that health care is covered for families. As corporations force working people to work longer and spend more time away from their home, unions are key to creating an economy that works for everyone and ensuring that workers have flexibility in handling their family and work responsibilities. Corporations have spent billions to try to eliminate benefits like paid sick leave, time off, and health care coverage. Without workers' freedom to form and join unions, corporations will continue to chip away at the family-friendly practices that help working people across the country.
To ensure healthy families and communities, workers need the benefit of family-friendly policies in the workplace. They need the basic ability to take days off in case they or a loved one are sick. They need health coverage that protects their families in an affordable manner. And they need to know about, and be able to exercise, their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For all these reasons, workers need the freedom to form a union and bargain for a better life.
You can download the "Family-Friendly Workplaces" report here.