Labor Family News - Spring 2005

College-Bound: Union Invests in Unique Teen Program
Message from the Executive Director
A Working Families Agenda for Unions and for America
Is Preschool for All California’s Future?
Family Medical Leave Act Under Threat
A Job and A Life: Organizing and Bargaining for Work Family Issues


Communication Workers of America members can use the "Kids in the Workplace" program at a number of work sites in the mid-Atlantic Region. Parents of school-age children ages 5-12 can bring them to work on days when schools are closed. The program is coordinated by Ceridian, an outside agency, which provides age-appropriate activities and runs approximately 15 days per year at 60 sites. Parents also have access to resource and referral services that provide information on education for pre-school, school-aged children and college referral advice for teens. CWA & Verizon

The United Auto Workers has a number of summer and holiday camp programs available to members’ children around the country at no charge or for a low fee. During the school year, school children of any age can also use the UAW’s tutoring program. This popular program is run by trained tutors who provide over-the-phone advice and instruction on subjects like math and English during evenings and weekends when parents may be working. UAW & Various Employers

The United Steelworkers of America successfully negotiated a voluntary overtime provision for its members. The Company is required to notify the union of any overtime needs at least 24 hours in advance. Overtime is offered on a rotational basis to qualified employees. Employees who do not wish to be part of the overtime rotation are required to submit a written notification to the supervisor. Saturday and Sunday overtime is considered separately and an employee is not required to work one day to qualify for the other. USWA Local 9777 & Alberto-Culver USA, Inc.

Members of Massachusetts’ Employees of Toll Roads, Bridges and Tunnels Local 127, Teamsters can take up to 6 months of unpaid maternity or parental leave without any loss of benefits or seniority. Maternity leave is available to members who have completed the probationary period. Parental leave applies to fathers and new parents of an adopted child and is available to members who have worked for the company for 12 months. Members applying for either maternity or parental leave are not required to use any accrued sick leave or vacation time. Employees of Toll Roads, Bridges and Tunnels Local 127, IBT & State of Massachusetts

Britain’s General Union (GMB) and Playtex, the underwear manufacturer, conducted a survey on various flextime options for the 450 hourly employees and 150 office staff. The survey showed that workers would prefer a 4-day week option and an early start time. A pilot project was created with GMB members working a 38.5-hour week over four days. The new flextime schedule, giving workers a 3-day weekend was very popular and was made permanent. Britain’s General Union & Playtex Products, Inc.

College-Bound: Union Invests in Unique Teen Program
By Nicola Dones

The 1199SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund, negotiated to address the child care needs of New York’s Healthcare Union members, has 450 employers contributing over 19 million dollars annually and serving more than 12,000 members in the New York tri-state area. The Fund offers a number of programs for children of all ages and in 1996, following a survey that highlighted the vast gap between teen aspirations and their academic achievements, it introduced WorkForce 2000—a partnership between the 1199SEIU Child Care Fund and New York University. The year-long program is designed to help 14 - 17 year old teenagers prepare for college through instruction, self-awareness and counseling. Nine years ago, the pilot program began with 25 students--today, 265 union members’ children participate.

Each student is evaluated and his/her needs identified during an orientation at the start of the program allowing staff to hone in on strengths and weaknesses and then develop individualized plans. Patricia Ryan who heads NYU’s Upward Bound/WF2000 Program and her staff are very committed to ensuring that each teen succeeds. She states, “This year we have 80 students who are seniors and more than half will be the first in the family to go to college.”

On Saturdays during the academic year, the students spend up to 6 hours on the NYU campus where they attend classes to improve or advance their skills. The campus is buzzing with undergraduates and in this energetic, academic environment, the students experience the feel of college life: they attend career and college planning workshops; meet with a counselor to set goals for the year; and learn to navigate the path that leads to college.

“For the whole school year, each teen has a champion,” says Joanne Bentley, 1199SEIU Child Care Fund Manager of WorkForce 2000. “There is always someone in their corner encouraging them to succeed.” Teachers at NYU tutor, assist with applications, give advice on schools, even escort students to college visits and open houses. Fund staff plan activities to broaden students’ cultural and political experiences. Work internship supervisors offer the teens hands-on practice in the field of their choice.

The union program begins with a weekend camp retreat and ends with a summer work internship. Throughout the year opportunities are provided for the teens to participate in social, cultural and community events like seeing a Broadway show or helping out at a local soup kitchen. The Fund also conducts parent workshops.

Brandon Moorer, whose mother is an Information Systems operator at New York Presbyterian Hospital, is a WorkForce 2000 participant. When he began the program, he was failing in math. Not any more. Brandon says, “When my high school friends have a problem, they come to me. My math has greatly improved because I’m willing to work at it before it becomes a problem”. Brandon is currently taking two classes at NYU—College Survival and Calculus, and has been accepted into the Engineering Program at Virginia State University.

What makes the program so successful? Joanne Bentley praises Ryan and her NYU staff. “It’s the people who make the program. They are truly committed, dynamic individuals who understand teens from all perspectives.” Brandon’s mother Cynthia, who has built her own relationship with Ryan and Brandon’s NYU teachers, agrees, “I’ve never been involved in anything where the director has been so accessible.”

Ryan herself speaks highly of the 1199SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund staff. “They are the most insightful, dedicated people I’ve ever met—this union is really invested in its workers, their families and the future of their children.”

For more information on WorkForce 2000 contact Joanne Bentley, 1199SEIU Child Care Fund (646) 695-7346 or Pat Ryan, NYU at (212) 998-5115

Message from the Executive Director, Netsy Firestein

A Job and A Life: Organizing and Bargaining for Work Family Issues
. We worked hard to come up with an appropriate name that would identify what our new manual was about, but at the same time, not marginalize the issues. As Tom Kochan points out in his article here, working families have dual responsibilities – as workers and as family members. When unions advocate for public policies, or negotiate working time and benefits, work and family issues are part of the mix of what workers need for economic security, along with good wages, health and retirement benefits and safe workplaces. Working families need affordable child care, paid sick, vacation and family leave, control over their working hours like flexible work schedules and no mandatory overtime, help with elder care and more.

Due out later this month, A Job and A Life is meant to serve as a guide to unions to promote work and family policies by advocating for better laws, negotiating for strong contract language and using paid leave, control over work hours or child care as organizing issues. It provides hands on advice for starting a work/family committee, negotiating for flexible hours, passing a work and family bill of rights and advocating for paid leave laws. Pre-order your copy today or call us for bulk rates (20 or more).

A Working Families Agenda for Unions and for America
By Thomas A. Kochan

The void in progressive leadership in national politics opens an opportunity for the labor movement to demonstrate it is the best source of hope and progress for America’s working families. In turn, the future of the American labor movement may very well depend on it doing so.

What would be an agenda that resonates with working families?

First, labor needs to recapture the debate over values. All our various religious traditions stress an economic system must be judged by whether it delivers economic justice and improves the standard of living of families. The essence of the American dream is that parents will enable their children to do better than they did. Labor needs to offer a vision and strategy for families to once again realize this dream.

Second, if it now takes two adult wage earners to make ends meet, then labor should champion reform of labor market policies and practices to ensure that parents can attend to their dual responsibilities of being productive workers and responsible parents and community citizens. Thanks to a labor-led coalition, California has shown the way by passing a paid family leave policy. Labor should build on this success in other states. Historically, most progressive social policy innovations started at the state level. Labor can once again lead the way at the state level while national politics remain barren territory.

Third, work family issues need to move to the top of labor’s collective bargaining agenda. Some, but not enough, unions are already leading the way in negotiating flexible schedules and more time off to deal with sickness and/or other personal and family needs and by setting up joint programs with employers to address child and elder care, after-school, and other family concerns. Work-family is the next frontier for innovation and progress in collective bargaining.

Fourth, a new working families organizing model is needed to attract a broad cross section of working family members to the labor movement. Since women accounted for three fourths of new union members in the past decade, it is time to ask what kind of organizing and representational models are best suited to attract women? The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers provides a clue. Their organizing slogan: “You don’t have to be anti-Harvard to be pro-union,” the efforts they put into building a cohesive and supportive membership community, and their focus on delivering through collective bargaining and daily problem solving the flexibility members need to balance their work and family lives should not go unnoticed by the rest of the labor movement.

Finally, labor needs to continue working in coalition with other progressive forces—religious groups, ethnic and immigration groups, students, academics, women and family advocates, etc. to leverage their collective power and put the needs of working families back on the national agenda where it belongs.

A more complete outline of this agenda is provided in Thomas A. Kochan, “Restoring the American Dream: A Working Families Agenda for America”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, forthcoming summer, 2005.
Thomas A. Kochan is Co-Director of the MIT Workplace Center.

Is Preschool for All California’s Future?
By Jenya Cassidy

Did you know that ninety percent of brain growth occurs before the age of 5? According to Preschool California, an advocacy campaign building public support for universal preschool in California, by the time children reach age 4, they are eager and capable learners and a quality preschool program lays a strong foundation for elementary school and beyond.

Preschool California organizes child care advocates, parents, unions, businesses, teachers, family child care providers, churches and even police officers to begin the process of educating their constituencies around the importance of preschool. The goal of this education campaign is to build support for an initiative that will make preschool available to all 4-year-olds in the state. Organizers expect the initiative to be on the ballot in June of 2006. Preschool California has been laying the groundwork for this initiative through community meetings, policymaker education, resolutions, media outreach and lobby days in the state’s capitol.

California labor unions are playing a key role in getting the preschool message out to their members and working with Preschool California on crafting the political grassroots strategy. Catherine Atkin, President of Preschool California, stresses the importance of labor’s involvement in building this movement: "Labor unions have two important roles in the preschool-for-all movement. One is as beneficiaries: Union members are so often working mothers and fathers, and they want and need quality programs for their children. The second role is to help make preschool for all a reality. Unions are powerful advocates with a long tradition of successful grassroots mobilization. We'll need their help to get this initiative on the ballot, and to make sure it passes,” she said.

The California Labor Federation passed a resolution calling for universal preschool at their 2004 state convention. The resolution, sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), calls for funding for a universal preschool system that meets the needs of working parents as well as children, including quality full day care and professional salaries for the emerging preschool workforce. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Teachers’ Association (CTA), two of the state’s largest unions, have representatives who sit on the advisory committee along with business and child care advocates to help craft the future ballot initiative.

California is not the only state with a movement for universal preschool. As public consciousness is raised about the importance of early childhood education, advocates and unions in other states are launching movements to find a way to provide preschool for all.

Family Medical Leave Act Under Threat

Twelve years ago, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law, thereby allowing more than 50 million workers to take job-protected leave for their own serious illness or to care for a newborn child or a seriously ill family member. Now, opponents of the law are pressuring the Department of Labor (DOL) to roll back the illnesses for which employees can take job-protected leave and to impose a maximum amount of time that employees could take intermittent leave. An example of intermittent leave would be an employee taking a short amount of time for doctor’s appointments to treat a chronic condition. The DOL is expected to propose changes this spring. On the anniversary of the signing of FMLA in February 2005, Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said, “Working women and men need the government to provide real solutions as they struggle to balance work and family, not take away these protections. On this anniversary, we should be expanding the FMLA, not fighting to save it.” For information on how to join the fight to protect FMLA, go to the National Partnership website:

The FMLA at a glance:

The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to

To be covered under FMLA, you must Your employer must:

A Job and A Life: Organizing and Bargaining for Work Family Issues

“The union movement works every day to help workers have good jobs AND care for their families. This manual provides unions with the tools they need for negotiating for critical policies like paid family leave, flexible hours and child care. It also helps unions advocate in state and national arenas for good public policies that benefit all working families, as the union movement did with paid family leave in California.”
John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO

This comprehensive new manual for union leaders, activists, negotiating teams and organizers provides all the information needed to successfully move forward a work and family agenda.

The Manual includes information on:
• Getting started by forming a committee, creating a fund, and adopting the work and family bill of rights
• Negotiating family-friendly contract language on child care, family leave, flexible hours, elder care and more
• Understanding current state family leave laws
• Creating a work and family member survey

An invaluable resource tool for every union to address work and family issues!

Available for only $10 (free shipping). Call or email for bulk prices (510) 643-7088;
Pre-order your copy now by sending a check to:
LPWF, 2521 Channing Way #5555, Berkeley, CA 94720
Or order online 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

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

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