Labor Family News - Spring 2004

Sick Kids: Working Parents Face Challenges

Work and Family: Vital to Unions, Vital to Working People

Legislative Updates

Union Child Care Fund Helps Balance Work and Family

1199 SEIU Child Care Survey


California Union Wins Sick Leave for Grandchildren
The California Higher Education Staff Union recently negotiated the right for members to use sick leave to care for a sick spouse, parent, child and grandchild. Members are allowed to use sick leave for family members “up to the extent allowed by state law”, which is currently half the sick leave accumulated each year. (California Higher Education Staff Union & California Faculty Association)

Detroit Firefighters Expand Definition of Family
Detroit firefighters secured an expanded definition of family within their sick leave provision that allows members to take up to three days of sick leave to care for a family member. The term “immediate family” includes husband, wife, children, father, mother, brothers, sisters and any relatives living in the same household, no matter what the degree of relationship. (International Association of Firefighters Local 344 & City of Detroit)

Wisconsin Professionals Win Sick Leave for Families
The Wisconsin Professional Employees Council, AFT successfully negotiated for the use of accrued sick leave to cover a variety of situations. This includes up to 5 days for the emergency care of ill or injured family members, up to 5 days to care for a newly adopted child, and to care for a wife and child the week immediately following childbirth. Members can also use sick leave for medical and dental appointments for their spouse, child, parent or other dependents, that cannot be scheduled outside of working hours. (Wisconsin Professional Employees Council, AFT & State of Wisconsin)

Tampa’s ATU Eliminates Sick Leave Backlash
In its bargaining contract with the City of Tampa, the Amalgamated Transit Union successfully negotiated a sick leave provision that protects the right to take sick leave without negative consequences in the workplace. As long as the sick leave is authorized, the union member will not receive any negative comment concerning attendance on his/her next performance evaluation. Members can also take up to forty hours of sick leave per calendar year to care for an ill child, spouse, other legal dependent, parent or family member. (Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1464 & City of Tampa)

Canadian Public Employees Can Take Sick Leave for Child Care
The Canadian Union of Public Employees contract contains a Primary Care Leave provision that allows members to take up to 3 days of sick leave to deal with unforeseen child care responsibilities. The leave can also be used to cover medical emergencies. The leave cannot be taken before it is accumulated. (Canadian Union of Public Employees & Air Canada)

Sick Kids: Working Parents Face Challenges
By Nikki Dones

“Parents should have the right to leave work to care for a sick child.” Senator Edward Kennedy

It’s 7 a.m. You’re out of bed, showered and fixing your daughter Jennie’s breakfast when she comes to the table with a 101 fever, feeling miserable. You’re expected at work in 2 hours but Jennie’s sick. What are your options?

If you are lucky enough to have sick leave benefits and you live in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, or Washington, state law allows you to take a portion of your sick leave to care for Jennie, or another family member. If you are a public employee, there are 21 states that allow you to utilize sick leave for a family member.

If you belong to a union you probably have sick leave that you can take. AFL-CIO data shows that currently 80% of union women have paid sick leave benefits* and unions continue to expand upon, and improve, sick leave provisions in their bargaining contracts. Unions have negotiated sick leave to include family members (including grandchildren), other reasons for taking sick leave and protection from workplace repercussions for exercising the right to take sick leave. (See Union News section.)

If you are one of the 47% of working Americans that do not have paid sick leave, there is some hope on the horizon. Sick leave for families is an issue that Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) feels very strongly about and, later this year, he will introduce a bill that could become the first federal law to guarantee sick leave for employees and their families.

As currently written, the bill allows for a minimum of 7 paid sick days a year for an employee or a family member (pro rated for employees working less than 30 hours a week), use of the state definition for “spouse”, and protection from being penalized for taking leave. According to Senator Kennedy, “Parents should have the right to leave work to care for a sick child.” As such, he believes America needs to embrace a new model of the workplace that values the needs of parents.

Today, the options for taking care of a sick child are few. In conducting research for her book, The Widening Gap, Jody Heymann discovered that only 42% of working parents were able to stay home when their child was sick, but only a quarter of those staying home had sick leave benefits. The rest had to use vacation, unpaid leave or had to take advantage of flexible work hours. Of the 58% of parents who didn’t have the option of staying home, many had to send their sick child to school or leave them at home, alone.

Until the right to sick leave becomes a reality, what will you do about Jennie?

For more information on Senator Kennedy’s view on sick leave, visit (look under issues/work and family)
*AFL-CIO unpublished data, 2004

Work and Family: Vital to Unions, Vital to Working People
by Karen Nussbaum, AFL-CIO

Picture this: there is great social turmoil around the 8 hour day; tens of thousands of people are in the streets; there are many small strikes and a number of big strikes; and there is division among political leaders on how to respond. If you said I was talking about the beginning of the last century, you would be right. And if you said I was talking about the beginning of this century, you would also be right.

Vital to Unions
Unions have a long history of struggling to make work respond to family needs: From the fight to limit the work week 150 years ago; to the network of child-care centers set up by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in the 1960s, which made them the biggest private-sector provider of child care at the time. Today, more than ever, unions are fighting for progress on issues such as work hours, paid leave and child care:

Vital to Working People
Our members tell us that work and family is important to them.
Overtime: A Salient Issue
The response to the Bush proposal last year to eliminate overtime pay for millions of workers demonstrates the power of these issues to working families. More than 1 million e-mails, letters and faxes were sent by e-activists on overtime pay. There were an unprecedented number of visits to Congressional Representatives and Senators on this issue.

The old refrain “…Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will,” expresses an ideal as urgent to working people now as it was 100 years ago. Policy makers would do well to respond to work and family priorities for today’s working people and their organizations.

Taken from remarks given at the Congressional Briefing for “Take Care Net”, October 31, 2003.

Legislative Updates

New Jersey Bans Mandatory Overtime for Health Care Workers
After a 5-year battle, New Jersey healthcare workers led by Health Professionals and Allied Employees, American Federation of Teachers (HPAE-AFT), won a state ban on mandatory overtime. The new law went into effect in February 2004 and prohibits hospitals and nursing homes from forcing overtime except in federal, state or local emergencies. The law covers workers who provide patient care or clinical services and includes nurses, nurses' aides, pharmacists and medical technicians. According to the AFT publication, “Health Wire,” the union is hoping that the New Jersey law will prove a first step towards other states passing similar legislation and a national ban on mandatory overtime. "The bill is a critical step in addressing our healthcare worker shortage," said HPAE president Ann Twomey. "We are pleased that New Jersey will end the practice of having stressed, exhausted nurses caring for large numbers of patients. We intend to make sure that healthcare workers everywhere in the nation are also protected from this unsafe practice." New Jersey joins Washington as the only two states with any ban on mandatory overtime. But there is a growing movement against forced overtime. West Virginia recently passed a similar measure that the governor is expected to sign, and several other states are considering legislation.

Woolsey Bill Addresses the Needs of Working Parents
“If we can cut taxes for the richest Americans; if we can preemptively go to war;…, we can give families the tools they need to be both responsible parents and reliable employees.” Rep. Lynn Woolsey

In early February, Representative Lynn Woolsey (D- CA) introduced legislation that would help Americans balance their work and family lives. According to Representative Woolsey, the “Balancing Act,” HR 3780, is designed to help working parents find a balance between their work and family lives. Woolsey’s legislative package seeks to improve the lives of working families by:

In a press conference in early February, Woolsey noted that the changes in the American family from having one breadwinner to having both parents work outside the home are a generation old, yet “our government hasn’t been responsive to these changes. We need a comprehensive, holistic approach to family policies. If we can cut taxes for the richest Americans; if we can preemptively go to war; and, if we can even think of sending a man to Mars, we can give families the tools they need to be both responsible parents and reliable employees.”

For more information on HR 3780, visit Representative Woolsey’s website: To help build support for the bill, call your local representative and ask them to support for HR 3780.

Union Child Care Fund Helps Balance Work and Family
by Mary Ann M. Ward, Ph.D., 1199 SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund

During the fall of 2003, the 1199 SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund celebrated its tenth anniversary and conducted its first large-scale survey project. Each year, the Fund provides eligible members of Local 1199, the healthcare workers’ union in New York City, child care benefits such as day care vouchers, after school vouchers, and summer day camp programs. Other noteworthy programs the Fund provides are:

During the registration period in 2003, more than 7,000 parents completed a survey designed to assess their child care experiences with the Fund and additional programs they would like the Fund to develop. Findings from the survey indicate an overwhelmingly positive response to the Fund’s benefits, staff, and reputation. Members with diverse work schedules, salaries, employment histories, and child care needs indicated that the Fund has helped them balance work and family responsibilities.

The following are some of the key findings from the project: The survey results also provide new program ideas for the Fund during its second decade. Members indicated an interest in more academic enrichment programs, parenting education information, and more geographically located child care programs. In response, the Fund is currently in the process of piloting a test preparation program and parenting workshops, and is planning to build another Child Care Learning Center.

For more information about the 1199 SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund and its programs, please visit:

The Union Child Care Fund Builds Support for the Union!
SEIU/1199 Members’ Comments:

“1199 has done so many things for its members. Child care is one of the most important services we need to improve our work life.”

“This is my third year applying. I was accepted the first year and the money was of great help for Tahilia’s day care fee. I did not have to be behind all the time and I worked less overtime so I could spend more time with my baby.”

“My friends can’t believe that you paid for my daughter to go to camp. Without this I couldn’t have worked this summer.”

“I am exceptionally impressed with the running of this program. Its operation seems so well organized in view of the fact that you are servicing thousands of families. I AM PROUD OF MY UNION.”

Unions Present at Alliance for Work-Life Progress Conference
Two Transit Worker Unions – TWU Local 100 from New York City and ATU Local 192 from Oakland, California gave a presentation on the innovative family and child care programs developed from negotiated labor/management funds at the annual Alliance of Work-Life Progress conference in Phoenix, Arizona in February. The Alliance, a national organization committed to creating work/life balance, brings its national membership together once a year to share ideas and strategies.

Presenters: Veronica Brown, Child Care Coordinator, TWU Local 100, Vanessa Turner, Acting Family Care Coordinator, ATU Local 192, Don Ellison, HR Manager, AC Transit, Oakland, Nikki Dones, Program Associate, Labor Project for Working Families.

In Memoriam: Susan Eaton, Work and Family Advocate/Labor Educator
Susan Eaton, friend, teacher and colleague of the labor and work and family movement, died on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 of complications from leukemia. Eaton worked for 12 years as a union negotiator, trainer, and manager for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), AFL-CIO, and labor councils. Susan completed her Ph.D. in Industrial Relations and Organization Studies at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. She wrote on the sociology of work organization, healthcare management and quality issues, work-family policy, and gender equity. From 2000 until her death in 2003, she was Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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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