Labor Family News - Fall 2005

40 Hours is Enough
Message from the Executive Director
Mandatory Overtime Work, Work-Family Conflict and Unions
10 Things That Could Happen to You If You Didn’t Have Paid Sick Days
Australian Unions Win New Parent Rights


Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 630 have a voluntary overtime system where they can opt out of all overtime, which means any overtime offered past his/her 8 hours on a regular work day and any overtime that may arise on his/her regular days off. This ‘opt out’ applies to the coming year. Therefore, during that 12-month period, the member will not be asked or required to work any overtime. Only 25% of members in each classification, shift and department can exercise this option at one time. If the requests exceed 25% then the selection is based on seniority. IBT Local 630 & Certified Grocers of CA, Ltd.

Machinists working for United Airlines have a contract provision that makes all overtime voluntary except in specific emergency situations where operations cannot otherwise be maintained. In emergency situations, members cannot be forced to work overtime until everyone in the same classification has been offered the opportunity to work the extra hours. The mandatory overtime is limited to the hours and members needed to cover the emergency only and is assigned in an inverse seniority order. IAMAW & United Airlines Inc.

Union members at the University of Massachusetts earn one sick day per month (twelve per year) which can be taken for their own illness. Part-time employees earn sick leave in direct proportion to their hours of work. The leave can also be taken to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, child or parent, a sibling of the member, spouse or domestic partner, or a relative living in the member’s immediate household. The University may require a physician’s statement when the leave is for someone other than the member. Members continue to earn sick leave while on leave with pay or industrial accident leave. Professional Staff Union Local 509/SEIU & Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts

Members of the American Federation of Teachers working in Nashua have a generous sick leave provision in their contract. Full-time employees earn 16.5 sick days and part-time employees earn 12 sick days, a year. Sick leave can also be taken for the member’s spouse, domestic partner or child. Members terminating their employment due to illness can either remain on full salary for the length of their accrued sick leave or take a lump sum payment equal to one half of their accrued sick leave. Members can accrue a maximum of 60 sick days. AFT Local 4831 & City of Nashua, New Hampshire

40 Hours is Enough!: National Organization Encourages American Workers to Take Back Their Time
by Jenya Cassidy

When Air America radio commentator Al Franken lambasted President Bush for taking a 5 week vacation this year, John De Graaf, award-winning documentary film maker and advocate for less work time, disagreed. “Bush is being a good example for the rest of us and should help find a solution so all Americans are guaranteed at least 5 weeks off. This vacation was very French of him.” De Graaf is cofounder of national Take Back Your Time Day on October 24 – an annual day of local events to challenge the culture of overwork.

The Take Back Your Time manifesto decries that Americans are working more and enjoying life less. On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe. We are putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950’s, mandatory overtime is at near record levels, and working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year and many Americans (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.

Since the first Time Day in 2003, religious, environmental, family advocates and labor organizations have signed on their support. De Graaf believes labor taking the lead will be the key to making change. “We owe weekends, vacations, the 8 hour day and the 40 hour week to the labor movement. These rights are being chipped away and it will take the labor movement combined with community support to reassert workers’ right to time off,” he said.

While many state and local labor bodies have endorsed Take Back Your Time Day, some unions are fighting for more time at the bargaining table. Time activist and member of Operating Engineers Local 3 in California, Richard Hobbs says that time will be a bargaining issue for union members in Silicon Valley this year. “Silicon Valley is like the poster child for overwork. Even in times of recession, the remaining workers are either working two jobs to make ends meet or covering the workload of two people.” O.E. Local 3 will be in contract negotiations on October 24, Take Back Your Time Day, and they are planning a press conference to draw attention to the health risks of overwork.

Take Back Your Time Day has embraced a concrete legislative agenda initiated by labor unions, legislators and work/family activists. Time Day activists will help publicize and build support for the following on-going initiatives: Kennedy legislation for paid sick days, paid family leave laws like the one passed in California in 2002, and limits on mandatory overtime such as those being negotiated by nurses’ unions.

John De Graaf sees these concrete initiatives as an important step in moving Americans to fight for their time. “These campaigns are a big step in the right direction. They get us talking about the fundamental right to care for ourselves and our children when sick, they also remind us that newborns and kids need parental bonding to thrive. Time is not a luxury – it is an issue of health and well-being.”

Take Back Your Time Day takes place on the 65th anniversary of the 40 hour work week. “Our theme is “40 is Enough!” says Richard Hobbs. “This is important when so many of us are taking 60, even 80-hour work weeks for granted. We have to reassert our right to our own time.”

For more information on Take Back Your Time Day, go to
See ‘Union News’ for contract examples on these issues.

Message from the Executive Director, Netsy Firestein

We have all been moved by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It has been wrenching to watch people who have been torn from their jobs, separated from friends, communities and social networks. Children are missing their teachers, their child care providers and their playmates. The elderly were separated from their families and in some cases left to die.

Unions have set up workers’ centers throughout the Southeast with information on jobs and union benefits, and free computer access to find out about family members, jobs and housing. Individual unions have hotlines and websites for their members and union halls have been transformed into centers for evacuees. Union members with an area of skills have volunteered in droves.

While it is critical to donate our time and our money to rebuilding peoples’ lives and communities, this disaster has shined a light on what working families need but many don’t have: Decent housing which is affordable; Jobs that pay a living wage and provide health benefits; Affordable, quality child care and eldercare services; Paid sick days for oneself and family and paid family leave (defined broadly); Flexibility of work hours and place controlled by the worker. We need to raise our voices so that in rebuilding and sustaining communities, we demand these basic rights for workers and families.

We are all a disaster away from being the Katrina victims.

Mandatory Overtime Work, Work-Family Conflict and Unions
by Lonnie Golden and Barbara Wiens-Tuers

Mandatory overtime work sometimes makes headlines, particularly when nurses and telecom workers have waged recent strikes in part to contractually limit the hours of forced overtime. But which workers work such hours? What are the consequences for workers, in terms of their health and work-family interference? How much of the consequences can be attributed to the involuntariness of such work as opposed to the long hours per se? Finally, can unions or public policy limit or prevent it?

Two recent large surveys provide some answers. The 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) Quality of Work Life Module finds that 28% of the full-time employed face required overtime work as a condition of employment. Over 21% of employees actually worked extra hours sometime in the last month because it was “required by their employer.” The 2003 Work-in-America (WIA) survey, Time is of the Essence, found that 19% of unionized and 17% of non-union workers worked “mandatory overtime” (overtime that cannot be refused without penalties).

The WIA survey revealed that workers with mandatory overtime are far more likely to point to “too little time” as their main problem (as opposed to “too little money” or “supervisors”). Almost 40% identify “too little time,” versus 25 percent among workers with no overtime or just voluntary overtime. In addition, about 72 percent of workers working mandatory overtime had an inflexible daily work schedule, whereas only about 52 percent with voluntary or no overtime work had an inflexible schedule.

The likelihood of working mandatory overtime is enhanced by being male, less educated and foreign-born. But this is primarily because they tend to be concentrated in industries which use more mandatory overtime. Being married reduces working overtime, but does not reduce working mandatory overtime. The chances of working mandatory overtime are further increased by more inflexible schedules, seniority longer than one year, difficulty finding alternative jobs, little say about what happens on the job and a poor relationship with and low trust of management.

Work-family conflict is greater for those who work mandatory overtime than for workers who don’t work extra hours or who work only voluntary overtime. The conflict is actually somewhat more intense for salaried employees. Levels of stress, feeling used up at the end of the day and being in poor health are somewhat greater when working voluntary overtime, but they are considerably greater when working mandatory overtime. Moreover, working mandatory overtime is associated with being in “poor” health. The negative effects of involuntary overtime thus negate any positive effect associated with the higher income brought in from overtime work, because workers with mandatory overtime have no greater level of reported happiness than workers with no overtime at all.

Labor unions have largely left the issue of mandatory overtime on the back burner, even in recently negotiated contracts, with the exception of telecom and hospital nurse workers. Labor organizers might try to recruit relatively younger workers who are raising children by focusing on the family friendliness of limiting mandatory overtime work. Moreover, labor negotiators might be able to relieve the underlying pressures that lead to mandatory overtime by bargaining for more flexible daily work schedules and say about what happens on the job.

Eleven U.S. states have already passed some type of legal limits on mandatory overtime hours and many others have pending proposals. There is also pending Congressional legislation, which would limit the number of mandatory overtime hours a nurse may be required to work beyond scheduled hours in a given day and week. All bills passed into law so far, with the exception of Maine, cover only the health related fields. Thus, perhaps broader, stronger medicine might include: applying the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSHA) “general duty” clause requiring employers to remove excessive hours as a known workplace hazard; exercising the right to refuse unsafe work under OSHA laws; extending the International Labor Organization’s definition of “forced labor” to include “refusal to do overtime beyond the scope of their employment contract or national laws” to the existing “loss of wages accompanied by threats of dismissal if workers refuse.” The well being of workers and their families will continue to be threatened until labor unions negotiate for stronger contract language and policies that better protect workers from the scourge of mandatory overtime work.

Lonnie Golden is Associate Professor of Economics and Labor Studies at Penn State University, Abington College. Barbara Wiens-Tuers is Associate Professor of Economics, Penn State University, Altoona College. This article was adapted from “Mandatory Overtime Work in the United States: Who, Where, and What?”, Labor Studies Journal, Spring 2005.

10 Things That Could Happen to You If You Didn’t Have Paid Sick Days And the Best Way to Make Sure They Never Happen to Anyone
By 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Most people believe that workers in the US have the right to paid sick days. Yet, incredible, almost half of full-time, private-sector workers have NONE. The Figures are even worse for low-wage workers – 3 in 4 – and part timers – 5 in 6 have NO paid sick days.

Without paid sick time, here’s what could happen to you:

1. You lose your job.
*When your child is injured.
When you go to the doctor.

2. You can’t take care of a parent.
When your parent is laid up.

3. You can’t take care of a partner.
When your spouse needs surgery.

4. You’re forced to go on public assistance.
When your child needs help recovering.

5. Your older child has to miss school to care for a younger sibling.
When a younger sibling is sick.

6. You must take a sick child to work or lose needed pay.
When you have no one to help.
When your child has the flu.

7. You have to leave your sick kid alone or waiting.
When she is sick at school.
When he is sick at daycare.

8. Your child goes to school sick.
When kids send themselves to school sick. (and don’t tell us they are sick)

9. Your health comes last.

10. You’re forced to put the public’s health at risk.
When you get the flu.
When you and your coworkers have to drive (as a school bus driver) sick.

*These are examples taken from real life stories.

Don’t Make Us Choose Between Our Families and a Paycheck.
Lack of paid sick days means more than a loss of pay – it often means discipline, up to and including termination. Other consequences include adverse health effects for workers, contagion among co-workers, reduced productivity, higher costs of turnover, worse health outcomes for children and increased use of health care resources.

Paid Sick Days Will Help Solve Ailments of Workplaces and the Community.
There are benefits to business, to children and to the community.

Make Change, Guarantee Sick Days: Support the Healthy Families Act.
Senator Kennedy and Representative DeLauro introduced The Healthy Families Act (S.2520, H.R.4575) to guarantee a minimum number of paid sick days to all workers in firms of 15 or more. The bill would provide 7 paid sick days a year to full time workers and is pro-rated for part-timers. Paid sick days could be used to care for your own illness or to care for a family member.

This is excerpted from “10 Things That Could Happen to You If You Didn’t Have Paid Sick Days”. For copies of the booklet, order for free by calling the 9to5 hotline at 1-800-522-0925. Postage charge for orders of 5 or more. To help support paid sick days, call the hotline or email:, or go to

Australian Unions Win New Parent Rights

In a recent, long-awaited decision, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) awarded new rights to many working families, including: The request for parental leave or to work part time may only be refused if the employer has reasonable grounds related to the effect on the workplace or the employer's business. Such grounds may include cost, lack of adequate replacement staff, loss of efficiency and the impact on customer service.

The new rights were awarded in a test case presented to the AIRC by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), which is made up of 46 affiliated unions, representing over 1.8 million workers. The ACTU brought the case in September, 2004 seeking new rights for parents and carers.

During the case, ACTU demonstrated the need for change by showing that, under the current system: Traditionally, AIRC decisions eventually cover most Australian workers, excluding the self-employed, managers and professionals. However, the current Government opposed the new employer obligations and unions believe the success may be short-lived unless they are accepted as part of the government’s new minimum employment conditions, due to become law in October.

For more information on the ACTU and the work and Family test case, visit


Parents Action for Children
Parents Action for Children is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of families and young children. Parents' Action develops parent education materials, connects parents with one another, and fights for issues such as early education, health care, and high quality and affordable child care.

Parents' Action for Children is organizing parents as a powerful movement to ensure that our nation's policies reflect our concern and commitment to parents and their children.

Sign up for their Parents Action News and other information on 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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