Labor Family News - Fall 2000

Union News

- Steelworkers Pass Family and Work Resolution

- FMLA- Using Paid Time
- Limits on Mandatory Overtime

- SAT Preparation


- State Initiatives on Paid Family Leave

- Caring For Elderly Relatives
- Paid Family Leave - Costs and Benefits

- Quebec Child Care Workers Organize

- Using the NLRA for Work and Family

Scholarships for Work/Family Conference


Steelworkers Pass Family and Work Resolution

United Steelworkers of America passed a resolution on Family and Work at their 30th Constitutional Convention. The International Union resolves the following: to bargain for family friendly policies at the workplace; to lobby for a national family policy including national child care legislation; to support full funding for Head Start and other programs for low income families; to support adequate funding for child care block grants and other social programs for families; and to develop sample contract language and educational materials for negotiating committees to address work and family issues at the bargaining table.

FMLA- Using Paid Time

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1070 in Indianapolis won language in their current contract to expand provisions for paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It is up to the employee, not the employer, to decide whether to use their sick, vacation or personal leave time when taking leave under the FMLA, or to take unpaid leave. Employees may use their accumulated sick leave to care for a family member under FMLA. (ATU Local 1070 and Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation)

Limits on Mandatory Overtime

Communication Workers of America negotiated limits on mandatory overtime in their new contract with Verizon Communications. Workers may not be required to work more than 7-½ hours per week of overtime for Commercial workers (service reps) and 8 hours for Plant workers. Voluntary overtime will count towards the 7-½ hour limit. Reasonable consideration will be given to requests to be excused. Also, notice for mandatory overtime will be at least 24 hours in advance with some defined exceptions such as emergency conditions. The Union won other work/family provisions to be covered in the Winter Issue of this Newsletter. (CWA and Verizon Communications)

SAT Preparation

HERE Local 2's negotiated Child and Elder Care Fund is now offering an SAT Preparation Course for children of Local 2 members. The cost of the program is $400 per student, as opposed to the normal $845, and may be paid for as part of the "Youth Program" benefit of the Fund. This program is a partnership between the Local 2/ Hospitality Industry Child and Elder Care Plan and The Princeton Review. The course takes place at the union office in San Francisco.
Orientations for parents were given in Spanish, Cantonese and English (about 65% of members enrolled in the Fund are Asian, 20% are Latino). The orientations gave parents information on the reason for the SAT, the support the children will need during the course and how to register for the actual exam. (HERE Local 2 and the San Francisco Hospitality Industry)


State Initiatives on Paid Family Leave

States are coming up with creative strategies to provide income support for working families using family and medical leave. Expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) are strategies that some states may utilize to help alleviate some of the pressures of taking care of family needs while working.

For more details, see the National Partnership for Working Families: State Family Leave Initiatives at: and "Pushing the Boundaries: State Action Improves Women's Economic Lives", Center for Policy Alternatives, June 2000

Caring For Elderly Relatives

Last summer the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) conducted a survey to identify the challenges faced by workers who also provide care to an elderly relative. Sponsored by the AT&T Family Care Development Fund (a joint project of AT&T, CWA and IBEW) 13,000 AT&T care-giving employees in four cities were asked via an anonymous survey to identify the type of assistance they would most likely need during the next 12-month period. Almost 70% felt they would require assistance in locating elder care programs and over 50% listed assistance with transportation, shopping, household chores, outside upkeep of the home and finding legal information as challenges in the near future.
The survey found many participants reporting high levels of stress and frustration, as well as guilt from trying to balance work, family and their caregiving responsibilities. Some of the employees were asked to participate in small focus groups to brainstorm ideas on how employers can provide assistance to workers in their caregiving roles. Employee suggestions included:

Voice of the Employee, National Council on the Aging. For copies call (202) 479-6975.

Paid Family Leave - Costs and Benefits

In a recent report on paid parental leave in Massachusetts by the Labor Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts, the authors outline the cost of not providing paid parental leave as well as the benefits of paid leave. With record numbers of women in the labor force, the economic insecurity of families when a child is born or adopted is not consistent with our income replacement and leave policies. Few family members are available to provide free care for families. "Paid family and medical leave… is therefore a step toward acknowledging the way we really are". The LACK of paid parental leave carries costs that are borne by families, employers and government.

For individuals, it means leave without pay, less hours of work or even leaving a job resulting in loss of income. Women who leave a job after childbirth earn lower wages when they return to the workforce than women who take a leave and return to the same job. For employers, there is the cost of turnover to replace and train workers as well as reduced productivity of workers who need leave but do not take it. Research shows that parents with paid leave are more likely to return to a job than those without paid leave.

There are also costs for the state and federal government. The U.S. Commission on Leave found that 20% of those taking family leave whose income was below $20,000 had to rely on public assistance during their unpaid leave. One in four people who took unpaid parental leave used public assistance to replace lost wages.

The authors argue that employers and government have benefited from free care for newborns traditionally provided by family members, mostly women. Their "once invisible work is rendered visible" in today's economy. Paid leave gives parents time to provide care as well as arrange for ongoing care. Caring work is necessary for our economy as well as for our communities and our children. Paid parental leave recognizes the monetary and societal value of that work. (Filling the Work and Family Gap, Paid Parental Leave in Massachusetts; Randy Albelda & Tiffany Manuel, Labor Resource Center, University of Massachusetts, Boston. 617-287-7426)

Quebec Child Care Workers Organize

In May of 1999 unionized child care workers in Quebec won a major victory - they successfully bargained a contract in which they will receive a 35% wage increase over the next four years. This is an increase from $12 to $18 an hour by 2003. The increase will be paid directly by public grants and not by parents. The victory was the result of years of organizing that, in many ways, just began when child care providers and teachers successfully unionized in the early '80s with the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN).

Yves Rochon, union leader and former child care worker from Quebec, attributes the success at the bargaining table to the unity of the workers and their ability, if necessary, to go on an indefinite strike. But how did the union get to the point of being able to pull off a massive strike?
  1. There was a long campaign of education, demonstrations and walk-outs involving union members, parents, and the support of non-union child care providers. They developed structure and organization using child care workers as local leaders. They also had staff assistance, strike pay and funds from the Union(CSN).

  2. These successful actions gave the union membership confidence in their own abilities and in the public's support. As workers began to organize, politicians began to listen.

  3. Earlier campaigns brought an increase in the number of centers and funding (not wages) as well as group insurance plans, training subsidies and maternity leave for the workers paid primarily by the state. These changes made high turnover less of a problem and allowed the union to build an experienced leadership. (From a presentation by Yves Rochon, Confederation of National Trade Unions, San Francisco, April 2000)

Using the NLRA for Work and Family

In an article called The Changing Faces of Unions: What Women Want From Employers, Melissa Childs looks at the evolving role of women in the labor movement and how two aspects of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) hamper the advancement of a work and family bargaining agenda. The NLRA (originally the Wagner Act of 1935) was enacted during a time of industrial growth to provide some protection for working people by giving them the freedom to organize a union and bargain collectively.

Since the need for replacement workers during World War II, the number of women in the workplace has continued to rise steadily to where they make up almost half the workforce and work nearly as many years as men. This dynamic change in the workplace has created a societal shift, bringing family obligations into the workplace, creating a need for workplace reform. Though issues such as child care, elder care, alternative work schedules and paid family leave affect both sexes, an organized female workforce will be the ultimate driving force behind major changes around work and family.

However, these changes have highlighted the weakness in the NLRA. The NLRA excludes a huge portion of working women - domestic workers, seasonal workers, independent contractors and temporary workers. There has been an increase in independent contractors and temporary workers as employers hire workers in these categories to gain control over labor costs. These factors have placed many women in the workforce without the protective umbrella of union affiliation. Unless these women are encompassed within the framework of the NLRA, their voices around work/ family issues will not be heard.

According to Childs, the legislative history of the NLRA suggests that the scope of the Act was to evolve over time, depending upon such factors as the type of industry, the needs of both employers and employees, and the social and political climate. She argues that the NLRA should embrace issues like work and family that "vitally affect" workers. Topics deemed vital to the success of the business or the job security of the workforce should be placed under the NLRA umbrella of "mandatory subjects of bargaining." The shift towards families with two working parents is a change in the social climate that should be reflected in the legislation that was designed to protect them.

Therefore, Child argues that the Act should be amended to allow additional topics within the framework of mandatory subjects of bargaining. By allowing the inclusion of additional topics, employers and employees alike can bring issues important enough to be considered mandatory to the table. Unions can then help push forward provisions that accommodate the needs of women in the workplace and, at a minimum, start an effective dialogue around such issues as child care, elder care, alternative work schedules, and paid family leave. (DePaul Business Law Journal, Volume 12, Fall/Spring 1999/2000 Numbers 1 & 2)

Scholarships for Work/Family Conference

To encourage labor leaders to attend the annual conference of the Association of Work/Life Professionals, the UAW and partners DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and Ford are offering scholarships to attend.

Who should apply: Union activists involved in any aspect of work and family issues in your union who need financial assistance to attend.

Conference: AWLP's Igniting A Spark…Creating a Passion For Change, February 7 - 9, 2001, Orlando, FLA.

Details: Send a letter to AWLP, 515 King St. Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22314, Attn: Labor Scholarship Committee. Must be postmarked by Dec. 15, 2000.

Union Affiliation
Local/Region Union
Position held in union
Reason for attending conference
Reason for requesting financial assistance
Request for specific funding i.e. membership fees, registration fees, travel and/or living expenses.

Winners announced by January 5, 2001
For more information, call AWLP at (800) 874-8396 or check the website at

Labor Family News is published quarterly by:

Labor Project for Working Families
2521 Channing Way #5555
Berkeley, CA 94720
Ph: 510-643-7088
Fax: 510-642-6432

Netsy Firestein

Jenya Cassidy
Managing Editor

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