Labor Family News - Spring 2002


Work/Life Balance Days

Stop the Tenure Clock


Health Insurance for Parents of Workers

Sandwich Generation



Retirees Donate to Leave Bank
Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 3 negotiated to expand their Catastrophic Leave Bank. The leave bank can be utilized by co-workers suffering from catastrophic illness who have exhausted their own paid leave. An employee who retires after five or more years of continuous service with the employer may cash out accrued sick leave up to a maximum of two weeks. All unused or uncompensated sick leave held by an employee upon their termination or retirement is now placed in the catastrophic leave bank. Transfer is in daily increments. (OPEIU Local 3 and Van Bourg, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld)

Workers' Parents Covered by Health Insurance
Unions representing employees at Kaiser Permanente negotiated an agreement in their national contract that allows employees to pay for extensive health plan coverage for their parents and parents-in-law. It also covers stepparents and employees' domestic partner's parents. Medical exams are not required and there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions. The rates are very reasonable for this group and the co-pay will only be $5. Medicare eligible parents are not included. This is part of a national agreement that covers the 68,000 union members that are part of the AFL-CIO Labor Management Partnership with Kaiser Permanente. The majority of them are members of SEIU. It also includes locals from UFCW, AFSCME, USWA, IFPTE, OPEIU & others. (SEIU, UFCW, UNAC-AFSCME, USWA, IFPTE, OPEIU and Kaiser Permanente)

Work/Life Balance Days Off
As part of an agreement negotiated by unions in the AFL-CIO Labor Management Partnership with Kaiser Permanente, workers are now entitled to "Life Balance Days" to provide time off for "balancing life and work responsibilities". The days can be used for any purpose. These days are separate from sick and vacation days. All workers will accumulate 40 hours (5 days) a year regardless of years of service and prorated for part timers. Total time off accrual is increasing by three additional days. Workers may donate their Life Balance Days to co-workers. (SEIU, UFCW, UNAC-AFSCME, USWA, IFPTE, OPEIU and Kaiser Permanente)

Stopping the Tenure Clock and other Family Friendly Provisions
As part of its Family Friendly Bargaining Agenda, California Faculty Association won several new provisions in their new contract. These include:
Expanded definition of family (including blended families and domestic partners) for bereavement leave and use of sick leave for family care;
The ability to stop the tenure clock for any year during which parental leave is taken; Paid parental leave was increased from 20-30 days (fully paid by the employer); New parents can apply for paid parental leave up to 60 days after the birth or adoption of a child - this is to prevent loss of paid leave for parents who have babies in June. CFA represents 22,000 faculty, coaches, counselors and librarians on all California State University campuses. (CFA and California State University)

Call us for more information on these and other contracts.


Contraceptive Equity

Did you know that some health plans cover Viagra but don't cover prescription contraceptives for women? The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently ruled that not covering contraception, when other preventive drugs and devices are covered, violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. So employers may not discriminate against women in health insurance plans by denying coverage for prescription contraceptives if they provide benefits to prevent other medical conditions. There are 17 state laws mandating contraceptive coverage, although self-insured plans are exempt from state laws. For more information on which states have laws, or how to get coverage through union health plans, go to the Coalition of Labor Union Women website on this issue:

The Sandwich Generation - Caring for Elders and Children

In the new millennium a growing number of workers contend with the need to care for an elderly relative with dependent children still in the house. They belong to the "sandwich generation" - a term referring to workers responsible for the care of children under 21 and an elderly relative at the same time. According to the California State Employees Work and Family Survey, 25% of households provide assistance to an elderly person and 41% of these same people are caring for children as well. With the combined effects of couples waiting longer to have children and the elderly population growing larger (U.S. Census Bureau, 1998), more than half of working Americans will find themselves in this situation in the next 10 years. According to Jean Holbrook. Director of Ceridian LifeWorks Services, the modern workplace will have to adapt to the sandwich generation's needs. "Companies will need to make sure to attract and keep older workers - formal elder care programs to help these employees care for older loved ones and part-time and flexible schedules," she said.

Flexibility at work is a top priority for sandwich generation members. According to a study by Healthwatch, the typical sandwich generation member is a 45-year-old woman working full time. The typical employee with dual care-giving responsibilities deals with the added stress this causes in the following ways:

Since child care is costly and elder care encompasses everything from driving a relative to doctors' appointments to around the clock nursing, the significant cut in working hours for the sandwich generation members is necessary but not really economically feasible.

Sandwich generation members find themselves torn between the demands of caring for dependent family members and the need to maintain full time employment. This dilemma affects workers and employers alike. Possible public solutions include putting more public money into subsidies for family care and paid family leave. Some states have developed programs to help workers needing both elder and child care. For example, Minnesota runs its own employee assistance program for these workers and Vermont has set up a commission for state employees with child care and elder care needs. The commission oversees a resource and referral network for finding care, seminars and a reimbursement program. California state employees' unions have negotiated a work and family fund which is used to address dependent care issues.

While workers are finding the stress of dual care-giving an economic and physical burden, employers are seeing its effects in the workplace. As care-giving responsibilities increase, employers report an increase in worker absenteeism, tardiness and lack of focus. Unions are beginning to take the problem on at the bargaining table and have pushed employers to collaborate with them to solve it. One example of a successful collaboration is the Local 2/Hospitality Industry Child and Elder Care Fund negotiated in 1994 by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 2 in San Francisco. The union won an agreement with a group of the largest hotels in the city to establish a fund to assist workers in paying for elder care and child care while they work. The United Auto Workers (UAW) negotiated a comprehensive package ranging from an employee funded dependent care spending account to an intergenerational family service learning center where union members use a wide range of services to help with all of their family needs. Unions involved in the AFL-CIO Labor-Management Partnership with Kaiser Permanente negotiated a ground-breaking provision allowing parents of union members to enroll their parents in Kaiser health insurance. (see UNION NEWS in this issue).

Unions are also working hand in hand with advocacy organizations to change how elder care is administered and funded. An organization called Planning for Elders in the Central City works with unions representing workers who care for elders in their home. The union members, the elders and families they care for work together on getting more public funding for home care. "Funding streams have a bias toward institutional care but a lot of elders can stay at home and actually would prefer to," says Karen Sherr of Planning for Elders. "The families can't afford the care and they can't afford to take the time off to provide the care themselves so the elders end up in an institution. We are working to change that so that more elders can receive quality care in the home."

As the sandwich generation comes of age its members are beginning to highlight the need to build partnerships to advocate for workplace flexibility and the right to quality care for our families. Employers, union members, family advocates and working families all stand to gain from such partnerships. In time this situation could lead to a more balanced work life for everyone.


"Juggling Work and Family" A videotape produced by Hedrick Smith Productions and recently shown on PBS channels. The video highlights several workplaces and work/family programs including the SEIU 1199 Child Care Fund. It also covers challenges for working parents and policy issues such as child care and the Family and Medical Leave Act. The videotape and discussion guide may be purchased by calling 1-800-257-5126 or visit their web site at

"Working Families Unite for Civil Rights and Justice" Poster and Notecards, AFL-CIO Textile artist Adrienne Yorinks pieced dozens of fabrics and photo transfers into a quilt celebrating the commitment to social and economic justice that links the civil rights and union movements in America. The quilt was photographed to create a beautiful poster and a set of five notecards-one depicting the entire quilt and four displaying details from it. To view the poster, notecards and to order, go to:

Bargaining Fact Sheets Available
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. Available at or call us at (510) 643-7088 or the AFL-CIO at 1-888-971-9797,

Family Fact Sheet Series for California's Working Families!
Are you entitled to time off work for family activities?
Do you qualify for Short Term Disability while on maternity leave?
Can you take sick leave to care for family members?

For answers to these questions and for information on California's family-friendly laws, get your free copy of the new Family Fact Sheet Series. Produced by the Labor Project for Working Families. For free copies, call us at (510) 643-7088, download from or email:

The Family Fact Sheets are available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

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

Reprints Permitted With Acknowledgement. Call us for an email version.

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