Labor Family News - Spring 2003

Extended Family Care Leave

Work-At-Home for Patent Examiners

Florida Passes Universal Pre-K

Union Program for Special Needs Children

Labor Project Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Cover the Uninsured Week Highlights the Nation's Need for Health Care



Transit Workers Address Child Care Needs
Transport Workers Union Local 100 successfully negotiated a jointly administered child care trust fund with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York. The fund will be used to develop and implement strategies and programs to assist employees with issues related to child care. MTA will make an initial contribution of $100,000 and beginning 6 months later will make monthly contributions of $200,000, totaling $2,400,000 a year. The fund trustees are considering an emergency childcare pilot program, a voucher day care program, and a feasibility study of onsite and offsite child care. (TWU Local 100 and Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

Healthcare for Homecare
United Services Employees Local 616, SEIU negotiated with the Public Authority for In Home Support Services in Alameda County for employer paid health, dental and vision care benefits for the county’s homecare workers. Eligible employees must work an average of 35 hours per month and agree to a payroll deduction of $8 a month to cover the employee’s portion of the cost. Along with a salary increase to $9.50 an hour, the union negotiated the creation of a labor-management committee to address the needs and concerns of its members. Traditionally, home care has been one of the lowest paid health care professions with workers rarely receiving benefits. (SEIU Local 616 and the Public Authority for IHSS-Alameda County)

Extended Family Care Leave
The Utility Workers Union of America negotiated unpaid family care leave of up to 6 months for the birth or adoption of a child and to care for a seriously ill family member. Employees are eligible for the benefit after 6 months of employment and may take a maximum of six months leave within a two calendar year period. If an employee takes more than three months in the first year, the employee will be eligible for an additional 12 weeks of leave at the beginning of the second year under FMLA. The leave may be taken intermittently or on a reduced work schedule. (UTU/International Chemical Workers Union Council, UFCW and Southern California Gas Company)

Work-At-Home for Patent Examiners
The Patent Office Professional Association (POPA) negotiated a telework program making 700 senior patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office eligible to work from home one day a week. Eligible participants must be in full compliance with the agency’s ethical, conduct and confidentiality standards. This program follows on the heels of a successful work-at-home program already established for employees in the trademark department. (POPA and the Dept of Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)


Florida Voters Pass Initiative For Pre-Kindergarten for All Four Olds
Florida voters approved an education measure mandating universal pre-kindergarten for four year olds in their last election. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas introduced the ballot initiative which was supported by Republican Governor Jeb Bush. The architects of the program designed it to improve education and give parents more choices. Non-profit and for-profit organizations, Head Start centers, colleges, schools and hospitals are eligible to sponsor programs. The problem with the measure, according to Suzanne Gellens, of the Early Childhood Association of Florida, lies in the lack of funding. “Jeb Bush supported it but did not budget for it,” she said. The logistics for implementing a high quality, voluntary early childhood education program were not defined in the ballot amendment proposal.

Mayor Penelas convened the Florida Universal Pre-Kindergarten Conference to gain insight from early childhood educators on how best to structure and implement this historic victory. At the gathering, the Early Childhood Association of Florida issued a position statement with recommendations for finding a dedicated source of funding for state pre-kindergarten “without taking away funds used or existing education, health and development programs.” “We want this program to succeed,” said Gellens, “but not at the expense of subsidized child care or any other programs.” For more information, contact the Early Childhood Association of Florida, 941-951-0606.

A Special Union Program for Special Needs Children
Since 1996, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has offered assistance to its members who have children with disabilities through its comprehensive program The Special Needs Project. The Project, one of 12 funded through CUPW’s negotiated Child Care Fund, serves over 443 families with 516 children, in 80 different union locals across Canada and has become the model program for other unions, organizations and communities for developing programs for children with special needs. “There is no other program like this in North America,” states Jamie Kass, CUPW’s National Child Care Coordinator, “it may even be the only one internationally.”

The Family Place Resource Center interviews parents to determine eligibility, develops an appropriate plan for the child, finds local resources and links the family up with appropriate groups. Qualifying CUPW members receive $100 to $200 a month to be used for additional costs directly related to a child’s disability which can include child care, respite or recreation program fees, specialized training for child care workers, transportation and uninsured health care expenses. The family also receives a quarterly newsletter and regular phone calls from trained advisors who provide updates on educational material and other resources.

How successful is the program? In a recent evaluation, parents not only reported a positive impact on themselves but also on the children being served. Parents have lower family and financial stress, improvement in overall health and well being, and higher morale and effectiveness at work. They also reported seeing a positive change in the child’s language and academic skills, higher self-esteem and happiness, improvements around social and friendship skills and more independence and maturity. Parents also feel the program has made an enormous difference in the ability to access therapy, services or appropriate equipment for their children.

Recognizing that all parents of special needs children experience constant exhaustion, higher expenses for care and transportation, difficulty finding specialized care and additional work stress, CUPW recently released Moving Mountains: Work, Family and Children with Special Needs a book detailing the Project, to highlight the issues around caring for a child with special needs and the challenges of being a worker and a parent. The union is currently conducting community/ labor book launches across Canada that raises the issues of special needs care, giving details on the Project and sharing strategies around bargaining for special needs care. According to Denis Lemelin, CUPW 2nd National Vice-President, “We hope the project described in the book will spark action by governments, employers and other unions to provide concrete support to families with children with disabilities.” For more information or a copy of the book Moving Mountains: Work, Family and Children with Special Needs, contact Jamie Kass, CUPW Child Care Coordinator at jkass@cupw-sttplorg or visit the union website at

Labor Project Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Over 250 union leaders, politicians, work/family advocates and community activists gathered at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel on March 27th, 2003 to celebrate the Labor Project for Working Families’s 10th anniversary. The event, hosted by Karen Nussbaum of the AFL-CIO, honored SEIU 1199 and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2 for their innovative work in bargaining for child and elder care benefits for their members. The Labor Project also honored founding board members Walter Johnson of the San Francisco Labor Council, Owen Marron, formerly of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Steve Roberti, formerly of the Contra Costa Labor Council, Margaret Shelleda, AFT, and Marcy Whitebook formerly of the Center for the Child Care Workforce. Participants enjoyed the music of labor folk singer John Fromer and the humor of San Francisco comedienne, Diane Amos. The event also featured an exhibit of labor posters featuring work and family themes, which will soon be up on our web site!

The 10th anniversary of the Labor Project comes on the heels of one of its greatest victories – the passage of Paid Family Leave in California. “I’m very proud,” said Executive Director Netsy Firestein. “We are celebrating more than just an anniversary. Paid family leave was a huge labor win. Nationally, labor unions are at the forefront in advocating for paid family leave, child care and other work/family policies.” While celebrating the successes of the last 10 years, supporters of the Labor Project set their sights high. From their vantage point, the 10th Anniversary looks like just the beginning of a national labor-led movement for paid leave and similar progressive family policies.

Cover the Uninsured Week Highlights the Nation’s Need for Health Care
“Cover the Uninsured Week” (CTUW) a week-long series of national and local media events, was designed to draw attention to the plight of the more than 41 million uninsured Americans. The week of March 10 – 16, 2003, it was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, along with other influential organizations including the AFL-CIO. According to the Foundation, 8 out of 10 uninsured Americans are working. On March 13th ,CTUW organizers brought unions and business leaders together in cities across the country to discuss their common interest in addressing the health care crisis. As of this writing, eleven state labor federations have introduced legislation that provides some form of health care for all adults and children.

In collaboration with this effort, the Alameda County Work and Family Coalition (in California) held a press event highlighting the lack of health benefits in the child care field. The Coalition, comprised of child care workers, unions, community organizations and parents, has been organizing around the need for affordable benefits in child care for over two years. The event was held at a child care center where parents, union members and child care providers distributed post cards to send to legislators. The post cards feature pictures of child care teachers who are working without health benefits or had to leave the field due to lack of benefits. The labor movement is taking the lead on health care issues. As of this writing, labor organizations in ten states, including California, have introduced legislation to expand health care coverage to more working people.


Living in Hope: People Challenging Globalization. A collection of essays edited by John Feffer showcases the work of Quaker International Affairs Representatives (QIAR) and their allies in combating globalization’s destructive forces that “emphasize material over spiritual growth, corporate over family ties, competition over cooperation.” Success stories from around the globe describe how workers are coming together to create fair trade alternatives that respect human and worker’s rights. Includes an extensive list of resources. $15. American Friends Service Committee, 215-241-7000,

From the Labor Project:

“Putting Families First: How California Won the Fight for Paid Family Leave”
Report Available Now!
This new report, written by Labor Project for Working Families, provides an overview of the key conditions, events and decisions in California that led to passing the most comprehensive paid family leave legislation in the country, and includes lessons learned. For a printed copy, call 510-643-7088. First copy is free, additional copies are $5.00 each.

Child Care Choices for Working Families: Examining Child Care Choices of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Workers Union Local 2 Members Working in San Francisco’s Hospitality Industry. Labor Project for Working Families and California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Union members surveyed for this report participate in a labor negotiated benefit that provides subsidies to offset child and elder care costs. In spite of this assistance, San Francisco hotel workers still face many challenges including language barriers, finding care on weekends and evenings and little government support. The report provides a glimpse into low income workers’ struggles and the choices they make.

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.

LEARN Resourse Network
Keep me informed by email