Labor Family News - Summer 2006

What's New in Child Care? Unions, Baby!
Message from the Executive Director
One Sick Child Away From Being Fired: Work/Family Conflicts in Union Arbitrations
Paid Sick Days Law Looses By One Vote


Farmworkers Win Comprehensive Bereavement Benefit
Members of the United Farm Workers of America working for Global Horizons recently secured a new contract that not only gives workers a pay increase and healthcare coverage but also provides for three days of paid bereavement leave. The majority of Global Horizons workers are from Thailand and Vietnam. If the worker is required to travel to his/her home country for the funeral, the provision also requires that the employer provide paid round trip transportation and further leave time, as necessary. The contract covers all Global Horizons employees throughout the United States. (UFW & Global Horizons-all US contracts)

Teachers Enjoy Free Child Care and Other Benefits
Through a joint effort between American Federation of Teachers Local 1520 and the Cincinnati Board of Education, a child care center was established to provide union members with access to free day care. The Board pays the salaries, benefits and all other costs associated with the Program. Members also have access to an Adoption Assistance Program that reimburses up to $2,000 ($3,000 for multiple adoptions) to offset the cost of adoption expenses incurred by members. Finally, members may use paid sick leave for the illness or injury of a family member. Family is defined as: parent, step-parent, child, spouse, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, aunt, uncle, nephew and niece. When all sick leave is exhausted, members may receive up to five sick days in advance of accrual. (AFT Local 1520 & Cincinnati Board of Education)

Members Choose Own Work Schedule, Overtime Hours
Members of Alaska State Employees Association, AFSCME Local 52 have a contract provision that requires overtime only be distributed to members who desire to work it. An exception can be made when the amount of work or the skill involved is not met by the available members. However, all records of overtime hours must be made available for reasonable inspection by the union. Members also have the option of electing an alternative workweek (e.g. four day week) or flexible work hours, which are established through mutual agreement between the union and the employer. Members may also trade shifts with other members, provided prior approval is obtained. (ASEA, AFSCME Local 52 & State of Alaska)

Police Have Access to Donated Vacation
The contract between the State of Connecticut and the Protective Services Employees Coalition of the International Union of Police Officers contains a provision that allows members to donate accrued vacation and/ or personal leave to another member who is suffering from a long term illness. In order to access donated leave, a member must have exhausted his/her own accrued paid time off. Members also have access to a maternity leave provision that allows use of accrued paid leave for time off that is certified by a doctor. Additionally, the member may request up to an additional six months of unpaid maternity leave due to a disability and be guaranteed a return to work in her previous position. (IUPA & State of Connecticut)

What's New in Child Care? Unions, Baby!
By Jenya Cassidy

Six years ago, when Linda Sladky started her own business as a home based child care provider in Council Bluffs, Iowa, she never imagined that it would lead to her knocking on doors to recruit new union members and speaking in front of senators and state representatives. "Even 7 months ago, I could not imagine this!" she laughed. Linda started her home based child care business because she was devoted to the children but, like many in the workforce, found the long hours, isolating work, low pay and no benefits tough to deal with. A year ago, Linda came in contact with the union, AFSCME/CCPT (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees/Child Care Providers United) when she invited a representative to speak to her provider support group. "We started the support group to discuss work problems and give each other ideas," she said. "What we really needed was to sit down with the agencies that regulate us and have a say over the issues that affected us. That is one thing that the union changed early on -- we are coming together to get the things we need."

Linda belongs to a swiftly growing group:  unionized home based child care providers. Just as 5 years ago Linda could not imagine that she would end up a union member, many in the industry could not imagine how home based providers could unionize seemingly overnight. According to a report by Stephen A Herzenberg, of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, until recently, unions were not organizing home based child care providers on a large scale because it was considered difficult and providers are isolated from each other; they operate as independent businesses and wages cannot be negotiated in the traditional way.* Unions have had to use creative methods to unionize the child care workforce.

 By working politically, engaging parent and community support and just plain old-fashioned door to door visits, unions have made incredible strides in organizing this sector of the child care industry. In one of the largest single union victories in U.S. history, 49,000 Illinois child care providers voted overwhelmingly to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 880 in April of 2005. This victory for organized labor came after a contentious battle between two public employee unions, AFSCME and SEIU, over the right to represent the home based providers. While some criticized the infighting between the unions, one provider saw it as a positive:  "We used to dream about unionizing and it seemed impossible - no one could figure out how to incorporate us. I'd say it is a step in the right direction to have two unions fighting over the right to represent us."

Tensions between the two unions led to a historical "no raid" agreement affecting the organizing in California and Pennsylvania. The unions pledge to respect each other's turf and cooperate in organizing the home based child care and elder care workers. The pact creates "unity locals" in which the unions unite home based child care providers into one, strong statewide local in order to improve benefits and stability in the child care profession.

 According to Sergio Sanchez, California State Campaign Coordinator for SEIU, the same issues drive home based providers to unionize across the country:  the high cost of health coverage, access to education for professional development and getting more money in the child care system in order to increase pay. "But the issue behind all of this is respect. The providers coming together and fighting for what they need is helping build respect for their work," he explains. Linda Sladky agrees:  "One of the best experiences I've had so far with the union, has been going in front of our elected representatives and having them recognize us as the professionals that we are. We really felt heard. It was an awesome experience."

Other unions organizing home based child care providers include United Federation of Teachers (UFT), United Auto Workers (UAW), and Communication Workers of America (CWA). The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are focusing mainly on school-based and preschool teachers. In the last couple of years, organizing in the child care sector has grown faster than other sectors in the labor movement. "But we still don't know what percentage of the child care workforce is now organized," said Shannon Gilson, Public Affairs for United Child Care Union (AFSCME/UCCU). "Even the state does not keep good records of providers working out of their homes." 

The need to stand up and be counted is one of the reasons home based providers like Linda Sladky join unions. She admits that, in spite of unionization, actual work conditions for home based child care providers will be slow to change. "The one thing that has changed is perhaps the most important thing in the long run: we are connected now. We have a voice."
*From "Unions in Child Care" April, 2006 published by Keystone Research Center

Message from the Executive Director, Netsy Firestein

The past few months have been a busy time for work and family issues! Massachusetts introduced legislation for paid family leave; Madison,Wisconsin narrowly defeated what would have been the first paid sick leave law in the country (see page 3); and I was a guest writer for The Motherhood Manifesto, a new book by Joan Blades, co-founder of and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. Check out their website at In May, TakeCareNet, a coalition of advocates and academics, co-sponsored a Congressional briefing with the Progressive Caucus, to release the Work and Family Bill of Rights, which calls for affordable, quality childcare and eldercare, paid family and sick leave, flexible work hours and health care for all.

Meanwhile, our new work family curriculum, Making It Work Better*, has been receiving rave reviews from union leaders and labor educators nationwide. Since its debut this spring, it has been featured at the United Association for Labor Education conference in Seattle, the Tennessee AFL-CIO Conference, the NYC Child Care Coalition leadership training and will be distributed at all Summer Institutes for Union Women. We are working with labor educators in Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Ohio to host trainings based on the curriculum. For more information on these trainings, contact us at 510-643-7088.

*Download the curriculum guide and materials at


One Sick Child Away From Being Fired:  Work/Family Conflicts in Union Arbitrations
by Joan C. Williams and Stephanie Bornstein

The majority of news stories about work and family conflict feature professional women "opting out" of the paid workforce to spend more time caring for their children. Such coverage neglects the experiences of the 70% of American households in which all adults work in the paid labor force. It also neglects the experiences of most unionized workers who, by and large, have much less flexibility at work than those in professional-managerial positions.
In our new report, entitled One Sick Child Away From Being Fired: When "Opting Out" Is Not an Option, the Center for WorkLife Law studies the work/family conflicts of unionized workers by examining nearly 100 arbitrations. The second in the Center's series of arbitration studies, the report reveals a picture of working families severely affected by long hours and mandatory overtime (often scheduled with little notice), little to no control over work schedules, and virtually no flexibility in their jobs.
Among the arbitrations studied are those of a bus driver fired for being three minutes late when her son had an asthma attack; a press operator fired for being 20 minutes late after caring for both her mother and her infant all night; a packer fired for leaving work when told that her four-year-old was in the emergency room with a head injury; and a grandfather fired for insubordination for refusing to explain why he wouldn't work overtime when he had to go home to take care of his grandchild. Of the arbitrations studied involving discipline or discharge, 79% involved child care, while the remaining cases involved care for a parent, spouse, grandparent, or other relative.
The results of the arbitrations reveal that even the arbitrators recognize the impossible situation of workers forced to choose between their duties at work and their responsibilities to their families:  Although arbitrators rarely issue split decisions, 36% of the decisions studied were split.
The report provides six major findings:

The report also provides recommendations for the press, policymakers, employers, and unions. The press should correct its coverage of the issue as a professional women's issue rather than a major economic issue; policymakers should correct the dearth of U.S. public policy to support working families; and employers should recognize the economic advantages (beyond retaining good workers) of implementing policies that allow workers to meet family responsibilities.
For unions, the report's message is clear:  Work/family issues are core union issues that can play a key role in organizing efforts. As the arbitrations show, workers who had the protections of their unions to file a grievance had much success in reducing or overturning their disciplines, whereas the 92% of American workers in the private sector who are not unionized have no such protections. Contract and union protections can make a huge difference to the workers they cover-allowing fathers as well as mothers, sons as well as daughters, and grandparents as well as parents the opportunity to successfully meet both work and family responsibilities.
Joan C. Williams is a Distinguished Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at U.C. Hastings College of the Law. Stephanie Bornstein is Faculty Fellow with the Center. Special thanks to the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who opened their arbitration files for the study. The Center is actively seeking access to other unions' arbitration databases. For a copy of the report or more information, visit or call (415) 565-4640.

Paid Sick Days Law Looses By One Vote.
In May, the Madison City Council narrowly defeated a proposed sick leave law by one vote after a long hearing and debate. The paid sick leave proposal was developed by the Healthy Families, Healthy City campaign, a broad union/community coalition. It would have required all businesses with 5 or more employees to offer paid sick leave for employees who worked at least 18 hours a week to care for themselves or their families. The proposed paid sick leave would amount to about 5 days a year for a full time worker. If passed, Madison would have been the first city in the country with mandatory paid sick leave.


Three New Reports Make the Case for Paid Family Leave - Good for Businesses and  Families.

Family Leave Enhances Family Stability
A new publication from the Center for the Study of Social Policy lists family and medical leave (unpaid and paid) as 1 of 20 effective state policies to enhance a family's opportunity and stability.  The report assembled research on effective policies in the following areas: employment, income and asset growth, health, education, and healthy family relationships.  Download the report and also find report cards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia at

New Jersey Study Shows Reduced Turnover and Cost Savings to Employers
A new study from the Center for Women and Work, A Workable Balance: New Jersey Employers' Experiences Managing Employee Leaves and Turnover, shows the benefits of paid family leave for employers and employees.  The case studies offer detailed portraits of employer policies and practices to accomplish goals when employees are on leave.  For example, the study found that few employers provide paid family leave; however, many employees draw full or partial family leave by using vacation, personal days or paid time off.  The authors conclude that a statewide family leave insurance program would help reduce employee turnover, benefit companies already providing paid sick days or paid time off, and level the playing field for smaller employers. For the full report, go to:

Paid Family and Medical Leave Can Ease Burdens on Workers and Employers - Mass.
A new study "Sharing the Costs, Reaping the Benefits: Paid Family and Medical Leave in Massachusetts" by UMass Boston economists Randy Albelda and Alan Clayton-Matthews provides estimates of the significant costs employers and employees bear currently and with a proposed program for family and medical leave. The report also estimates the cost and benefits of a proposed state law on paid family and medical leave. To view the report on the web, go to:

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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