Labor Family News - Fall 2001

Prepaid Leave Plan
Union Contract for Child Care Workers
Domestic Violence Language

Family Policies in Europe


Prepaid Leave Plan
In a number of Canadian agreements, unions have negotiated for a "prepaid or self funded leave plan". This allows an employee to voluntarily take a reduced income over a period of time to be paid out later during an extended leave or sabbatical. This does require long term planning. These leaves may be taken for any personal reason - such as time with family and children, travel, education or volunteer work. Issues that need to be dealt with in the contract are: eligibility, accumulation and payment during leave, effect on benefits such as health and pension, seniority and job protection. (various Canadian teachers and public employees unions and employers)

Child Care Worker Contract
UAW Local 1811 bargained a new contract with Prodigy Consulting of Flint, Inc. which operates the UAW-GM Child Development Center. The contract covers staff of the child care center and provides a model for child care worker pay and benefits. The contract includes paid leave for bereavement, training, vacation and sick leave and time off to vote. Fringe benefits include medical insurance for employees and partial family coverage; child care benefits; full dental, life and vision insurance for employees; pension contributions; short and long term disability; and tuition assistance up to $1500 a year. There are pro-rated benefits for part time employees and yearly pay increases. (UAW Local 1811 and Prodigy Consulting of Flint, Inc.)

Leave for Domestic Violence
Canadian Autoworkers Union negotiated 90% paid time off for employees who are absent from work due to abuse or violence. In addition, the company will not discipline the employee and all information surrounding the incident will be confidential. (National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada, CAW, Locals 1839 and 1915 and Northern Telecom Canada Ltd.)

Call the Labor Project, (510) 643-7088, for more information on these and other contracts.


Bills To Watch
Expanding FMLA
HR2287 introduced by Carolyn Maloney (rep. D-NY) would expand the FMLA to allow workers to take unpaid time off to care for a seriously ill domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling or grandparent. For more information, go to: to download the bill.

A Federal Bill for Funds for Child Care Workers
A bill providing $5 billion over 5 years to provide stipends for child care workers was introduced in Congress by Senator Chris Dodd and Representative George Miller. The Bill (S.814/HR 1650) is a cost-sharing plan with the states - the federal share of funding starts at 90% and decreases to 75% over a period of years. The funding is to encourage child care workers to stay in the field and would pay a minimum of $1000 a year to early childhood staff in licensed centers and homes. Amounts would be based on levels of education and experience. For more information, contact Senator Dodd, (202) 224-2823 or Representative Miller, (202) 225-2095.

Putting Families First - European and U.S Family Policies

One woman asked if they ever had bake sales to raise money for their centers. …They laughed out loud at the idea. … "No, no! If we need more money, we just go to the Mayor and if that doesn't work, we go on strike."

Does social policy reflect a nation's priorities? In the paper "Building a Dual Earner/Dual Career Society" Associate Professors Janet C. Gornick and Marcia K. Meyers build a vision of a society which strikes an equal balance between earning a living and caring for family. They argue that parents' ability to balance family and market responsibilities, and to allocate earning and caring equally between mothers and fathers, would be facilitated by a package of government policies, that would include:

To a U.S. worker, this vision is practically utopian. However countries in the European Union have long provided benefits like paid family leave and government subsidized child care. According to Sheila B. Kammerman in her study "Support for Working Families: Why Europe Advanced While the U.S. Lagged," Europe expanded the social role of government while the U.S. was expanding the social role of the workplace - leaving it up to employers to provide paid vacation or maternity leave and leaving it up to parents to find and pay for child care.

The French government is a good example of providing continuous support for working families with young children from maternity leave through early childhood education. Earlier this year, a delegation of U.S. educators and researchers went to France to learn about the French universal preschool system. Patty Siegel, Executive Director of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, participated in the delegation. According to Siegel, the French government, unlike the U.S., plays a strong role in early childhood education and in helping parents stay home and care for newborns. "It's a continuum to them," she explained. Mothers, for example, receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, which many combine with several weeks of summer vacation which French citizens are entitled to. In the U.S., paid maternity leave is not a requirement. The French preschool system is centralized - teachers are trained, hired, and paid for by the government. In the U.S., there are government subsidies for low-income families but only 12% of eligible families actually receive the money. "Another interesting difference," Patty Siegel notes, "is that preschool teachers in France receive the same training and pay as teachers in the higher grades of school. In the U.S., many preschool teachers are leaving the field for higher paying teaching jobs."

In a meeting with child care center directors in Paris, one American woman asked if they ever had bake sales to raise money for their centers. "It took awhile for them to translate the word 'bake sale,'" Patty Siegel laughed. "But when they understood that we meant to sell cakes to raise money for the center they laughed out loud at the idea. They said, "No, no! If we need more money, we just go to the Mayor and if that doesn't work, we go on strike."

Like France, most countries in the European Union provide for some sort of paid parental leave. The European Union Parental Leave Directive sets the minimum standards of three months unpaid leave for each employee. According to a new study of parental leave in European Union countries and Norway, edited by Peter Moss of London University's Institute of Education and Fred Deven of the Flemish Population and Family Study Centre (Parental Leave: Progress or Pitfall?), parental leave policies vary widely across the EU in all aspects perhaps reflecting different national priorities. For example, Britain in 1999 was the last EU member state to make parental leave a legal entitlement and now has Europe's most minimal design: 13 weeks per parent, available in blocks of four weeks per year, with no statutory payment and no flexibility. The study suggests that due to the lack of wage replacement, few British parents will take the leave. In contrast, Sweden has the most developed and generous design with 15 months leave, mostly highly paid, great flexibility and incentives for fathers to participate. Seventy percent of Swedish men take parental leave, including, uniquely, most senior male politicians.

In the U.S., many men and women who work can take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act for bonding after a child is born. However, there is no national policy of paid maternity leave (although some maternity benefits are paid under state laws like disability in NY, CA, NJ, RI, and HI). According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, "too many women and men simply cannot afford to take unpaid leave, even when their families need them most. The bipartisan Family Leave Commission found that nearly two-thirds of employees who did not take needed leave cited lost wages as the primary reason."

The National Partnership for Women and Families is part of a larger movement in the United States to strike a better balance between work and family life. Part of this effort includes encouraging employers to provide benefits and work life programs but, increasingly, attention is turning to the role that government plays. For example, since taking family leave is not financially viable to many working families, activists and policy makers are looking at state by state solutions. In some states, there are proposals to extend unemployment insurance or state disability to cover some or all types of family and medical leave. If successful, these efforts will go a long way toward supporting families in care giving without giving up earning.


Work and Family Provisions in Canadian Collective Agreements. Published by Human Resources Development Canada, Labour Program, December 2000. A comprehensive manual of collective bargaining agreements covering a broad range of issues including many kinds of leave, flexible work arrangements, child care and elder care. The manual also analyzes the prevalence of these provisions in large Canadian contracts. Available online:
Copies can be ordered by calling (819) 994-6313.

The Best Friend's Guide to Maternity Leave: Making the Most of Your Precious Time at Home, by Betty Holcomb. A practical guide for expectant and new mothers which covers taking time off, dealing with your job, ways to find child care, getting back to work, paid maternity leave and resources for working mothers. Perseus Publishing. Available in bookstores. Ms. Holcomb is available to speak to groups. For more information, call (617) 252-5216.

Labor Project Resources:
Fact Sheets on Bargaining for Work and Family. Child Care, Family Leave, Elder Care, Control Over Work Hours, Bargaining Questions on Work and Family. Produced with the AFL-CIO, Working Women's Dept. To order, call the AFL-CIO at 1-888-971-9797, Labor Project at 510-643-7088 or


We share in the sadness and loss of so many people on September 11, 2001, including many union members from the Firefights and Police unions, Flight Attendants and Airline Pilots, Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 100, American Federation of Government Employees, Building Trades including Electrical Workers, Painters, Laborers and Steam Fitters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union 32 BJ, SEIU/Public Employees Federation, Musicians Local 802, Teamsters, Commnication Workers, Electrical Workers, Longshoremen and Operating Engineers.

To support disaster relief and victims' families, you can donate to:

Union Community Fund, Sept. 11 Relief Fund
815 16th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20006

NYC Central Labor Council Disaster Fund
386 Park Ave. South
New York, N.Y. 10016

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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