Labor Family News - Winter 2003

Child Care Subsidies for Working Parents

Nurses Win Limits on Mandatory Overtime


The Poor Performance of Employer Tax Credits for Child Care

Child Care Choices for Working Families

How California Won the Fight for Paid Family Leave












Flexible Work Schedules at SEC
Some good news at the SEC is that the NTEU representing workers there negotiated flexible work options including:

Flight Attendants Get Leave With Benefits
Association of Professional Flight Attendants negotiated 20 years ago for a voluntary leave, “overage leave of absence”, in the event of a long-term reduction in the workforce. During this voluntary leave, the employee continues to receive all medical benefits (still responsible for his/her own portion), seniority accrual, sick leave and vacation leave. Basically, the only thing they lose is a paycheck. Currently, there are 2,200 flight attendants on overage leave of absence. All employees who are on any type of leave retain recall rights for 5 years.
If not enough employees take this leave under the contract, then employees are offered job sharing that allows 2 people to split a salary and split one job, anyway they see fit. Both employees receive full benefits and seniority accrual during this time. However, because of the extensive administrative work involved, this job sharing is for a period of 90 days only. (APFA and American Airlines)

Education, Legal and Housing Benefits
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 negotiated a Trust Fund with multiple grocery store employers. Some of the benefits of the Trust Fund include an education benefit of $1000 per year for members and, for those with ten or more years of service, $300 for dependents; 100% coverage for legal services including marital and domestic relations, real estate, wills, adoption, criminal and civil cases, deeds, debt collection, settlement negotiations and traffic offenses; A new housing fund was negotiated as well. The employers will contribute $1 a month for full time employees and $.50 a month for part time employees. (The Child Care benefit of this Fund was featured in our Winter 2002 issue). (UFCW Local 1776 and Participating Employers)


More Child Care Subsidies for Working Parents – New York City

The New York Union Child Care Coalition, made up of 20 unions fought for and won funding from New York State for two pilot projects in the Bronx and Manhattan totaling $15 million. The goal of the pilots is to make childcare subsidies accessible to more working families by increasing income eligibility. Presently eligibility for subsidies is capped at 200% of poverty level. The pilot programs allow eligibility up to 275% (about $50,000- for a family of 4).

While most of the money is for subsidies, the pilots will also address barriers to working parents accessing subsidies including the requirement that they appear in person at the social service agency, the lack of evening or weekend hours, lengthy applications and long waiting lists. Under the pilot, working parents will be able to learn about the subsidy program at Childcare Fairs held on weekends or at their union or workplace. A simple one-page application form is being developed and parents will be allowed to mail or fax applications. A resource office to assist parents if they need help with the application will be open evenings and weekends. Outreach for the program will be done through unions, community based organizations and employers.

Nurses Demand Limits on Mandatory Overtime

“8 hours for work; 8 hours for sleep; and 8 hours for what we will!”
-Popular Labor Slogan.
The national nurses’ fight to ban mandatory overtime is the latest front in the on-going battle to preserve the 8-hour day. Balancing work with family life becomes virtually impossible when employers have the right to mandate overtime. And in spite of the country’s economic downturn, the use of mandatory overtime prevails in the hospital industry. According to Diane Sosne, RN and co-chair of the SEIU Nurse Alliance, “Mandatory overtime has led many nurses to leave hospital work . . .family pressures are a factor in this as many nurses who care for children or aging parents at home are unexpectedly required to work additional hours beyond their shift.”

Registered nurses have experienced the sharpest rise in overtime hours in the last few years. In hospitals, mandatory overtime is increasingly used as a staffing tool. “There is a serious nursing shortage right now,” said Willie Pelote, Political and Legislative Director for AFSCME/UNAC which represents 17,000 nurses in Southern California. “And hospitals are using mandatory overtime to fill the gaps.” Sonia Mosley, RN and Vice President of UNAC, has been an RN for forty years and said that when she started nursing too much overtime was not a problem. “This is a big issue for nurses right now because of the nursing shortage,” she said. “The hospital uses it to staff up in a lot of cases. For some managers it is just easier and less expensive than paying benefits for another full time nurse.”

The demand for excessive overtime in nursing impairs both the nurses’ ability to spend quality time with their families and give their patients quality care. This can have dangerous consequences. “It is hard on families – people are not able to plan their lives. We nurses feel obligated to stay because of the patients. But then we work back to back shifts on no sleep and feel like we are not giving adequate care or could even make costly mistakes,” said Sonia Mosley.

The negative impact mandatory overtime has on patient care has been a rallying cry for nurses around the country. In May 2002 during National Nurses Week, hundreds of nurses from around the U.S. paid a visit to the Capitol to support Federal legislation banning mandatory overtime. They set off alarm clocks in unison to ‘wake Congress up’ to the fact that overworking nurses is dangerous to patients’ health. The effects of sleep deprivation on work performance have been well documented. In fact, 1997 research by the University of Australia showed that work performance is more likely impaired by moderate fatigue than by alcohol and that there are considerable safety for workers staying awake for long periods of time.

Unions representing RNs point to patient safety as an argument for banning mandatory overtime for nurses at the national level. Angela Lemire, spokesperson for the SEIU Nurses Alliance points out that federal regulations place limits on the amount of time that can be worked in aviation and trucking. “Certainly, nursing has as much of an impact on public health and safety as these professions,” she said.

Mary Magee, RN in Labor and Delivery at San Francisco General Hospital, agrees that excessive overtime is a public safety issue. She also describes the negative impact it has on the nurses themselves; “Most of the time mandatory overtime is implemented when there are [more patients with serious conditions] so it usually comes on the worst work day of your life,” she said. “Maybe you skipped lunch or you ate standing up and you were so busy you forgot to pee. Then they ask you to stay longer. It is so demoralizing to the staff.” She went on to say it is worse for nurses with small children. “It affects the people who have little ones at home the most. They just had a hellacious day and now they are scrambling on the phone to see if their caregiver or partner can continue to cover for them. The most dramatic thing was seeing a breastfeeding mom get assigned mandatory overtime,” she said. “In labor and delivery we promote bonding and families and this is how we treat our staff.”

Mary Magee and the RNs in Labor and Delivery worked with their union, SEIU Local 790 to change their situation. They documented their overtime and contacted the Department of Public Health. When the CEO saw what they had documented, he agreed to assign more staff to their department.

The use of mandatory overtime is becoming a collective bargaining issue in steel, communications, auto, utilities and nursing. Unions representing RNs are leading the national fight to ban mandatory overtime at the bargaining table and legislatively. Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington have already passed legislation limiting hospitals’ ability to mandate overtime. And union RNs are linking up to build support for a federal bill – the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act that would limit the use of mandatory overtime to extreme emergencies. The California Nurses Association has, in numerous cases, bargained for and won language that bans mandatory overtime “except in the event of an emergency declared by the city, county, state/and or federal government”. Glenda Canfield, RN and Policy Director for SEIU Nurses Association says, “It is important to keep working on the legislation, to keep fighting. But for now, your best defense is your union contract.”


The Little Engine That Hasn’t, The Poor Performance of Employer Tax Credits for Child Care, National Women’s Law Center. This report examines the range of employer tax credits, presents new findings about low utilization and explores explanations for their lack of success. The report also examines alternative models for encouraging private investment in child care. It finds that these credits often divert money away from proven strategies such as direct subsidies to parents. To order, call 202-588-5180, or download at

New Resources From Labor Project:
Child Care Choices for Working Families, Examining Child Care Choices of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 2 Members Working in San Francisco’s Hospitality Industry,
Labor Project for Working Families and California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Parents surveyed participate in a labor negotiated benefit that provides subsidies to offset child and elder care costs. Despite this assistance, hotel workers still face many challenges including language barriers, care on weekends and evenings and little government support. The report provides a view of what low income working parents are struggling with and offers recommendations and policy implications.

An advocate’s guide to the successful California campaign for paid family leave, written by the Labor Project. Available in late January from the Labor Project for Working Families,(510)643-7088,, (first copy free, each additional copy $5.00) or download from our website 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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