Labor Family News - Winter 2005

Unions Bargain for Adoption Benefits
Parents and Caregivers
Canadian Child Care System
First Steps on Work and Family


The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) won adoption subsidies of up to $5,000 per child to offset the cost of adoption-related expenses, which can include legal fees, international travel, hospital and court costs. There is no limit to the number of children a member can adopt. Along with parents of newborns, adoptive parents can get 4 weeks of paid parental leave (Full pay for members with 7 years of service; 70% for members with less than 7 years) and 13 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. (Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers & Harvard University)

Full-time faculty members at the University of Massachusetts who become biological or adoptive parents of a child under the age of five are eligible for one semester of paid leave. The member must use any accrued sick leave during this time and apply for FMLA to run concurrently. If it becomes medically necessary to extend the leave, the member can draw on the sick leave bank for more paid days off. (Massachusetts Society of Professors/MA Teachers Association & University of Massachusetts)

Members of the California Faculty Association can stop the tenure clock for any year during which they take parental leave for a new child. Parents of a newborn or adopted child are also eligible for 30 days of paid parental leave. New parents must apply for parental leave within 60 days of the birth of the baby or the placement of an adopted child in the home. (California Faculty Association & California State University Board of Trustees)

Teamsters Local 572 won child care leave for members with young children. The leave is unpaid and intended for the care of children under the age of three. The maximum leave allowed is thirty-nine (39) calendar months. Leave requests must be made at least 10 days before the leave takes place. The employee is returned to a position in the same class. The contract covers a number of job classifications including accountants, bus dispatchers, and data entry operators. (International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 572 & Los Angeles Unified School District)

Members of the Canadian Auto Workers Locals 1990 and 2213 have the option to reduce their work hours by participating in a job share with another coworker. The member must find the other participant and both must commit to the agreement for 6 months. Both members receive full time benefits but vacation is pro-rated. (Canadian Auto Workers Local 1990, 2213 & Air Canada)

Adoption: Unions Win Benefits for New Parents
By Jenya Cassidy

Christina Safiya Tobias-Nahi and her husband Belkacem dreamed of adopting a child for a long time but found the costs prohibitive. In 1998, Belkacem and Christina started working at Harvard University and learned about the union-negotiated Adoption Assistance Program. The following year they were able to adopt a little boy, Saad Ali, from Morocco, Belkacem’s native country. “Saad Ali was 6 months old when we held him for the first time. We would not have been able to realize the dream of starting a family without the benefits negotiated by the union,” said Christina. In 2002, the Nahis were able to use the benefit again to adopt a second child, a little girl named Aya.

Christina and Belkacem are members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), a leader in winning family-friendly contract language including adoption benefits. The union is part of a rising trend in the labor movement: as more couples choose to adopt, unions are negotiating benefits to help them with the process. HUCTW has negotiated the following adoption benefits with Harvard: 4 weeks paid parental leave for birth and adoptive parents; the ability to negotiate additional time for parental leaves using vacation, personal or unpaid time; and an adoption subsidy of up to $5,000 per child to off set the cost of adoption-related expenses.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) has successfully negotiated adoption benefits as well. CWA District 1 representing Verizon employees recently increased adoption assistance from $5,000 to $10,000. In addition to financial assistance, CWA locals have negotiated parental leave for adoption and part-time work after birth or adoption for a year with full benefits. “Our members really appreciate the assistance with adoption,” said Donna Dolan, CWA staff representative for District 1. “Often it’s a lot more expensive than people assume it will be. But, there is a growing interest in adoption and we are committed to assisting members who want to start families.”

Couples and single people wanting to adopt find that it is not only expensive, it takes time. “When we first looked into adopting, there was leave for the primary care-giver (usually the mother),” said Christina Safiya Tobias-Nahi. “We let the union know that for foreign adoption, both parents needed to be present. They went back to the bargaining table and got paternity and maternity leave. I see it as an equity issue – an expectant mother has maternity leave as well as bonding leave. Adoption can be just as lengthy a process.”

According to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, while adoption benefits have not kept pace with maternity benefits, more companies are starting to offer them. It can be a way to create good will without a high cost to the company. Monty Clemmer, Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters, Local 1145 in St. Paul, Minnesota, agrees: “We got Honeywell to offer adoption assistance (up to $3,000 per child). It’s a great benefit and it doesn’t cost management much either – if we have 2,000 members and 4 use the benefit this year, that’s not a big expense for the boost in morale it gives the workers. People who don’t use it feel more pride and connection to their workplace and the people who do, well, it can change their lives.”

British Union Launches Campaign to Benefit Parents and Caregivers

“Supporting Parents and Carers” is the slogan for a major campaign in 2005 for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), Britain’s fifth largest trade union. The union set out to address the work/life balance for its 339,000 members. According to the union, their members told them loud and clear that balancing work and being a parent or caregiver is one of their main concerns. Most USDAW members are shop workers -- they also represent members in transport, distribution, call centers, home shopping, food manufacturing, dairy process, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

“Everyone is a carer, whether it be children, elderly parents or dependent relatives,” said John Hannett, General Secretary of the Union. “The aim of the campaign is quite simple: to put the needs of parents and carers at the heart of our negotiating strategy and every agreement we sign.”

The campaign leaders want to find out what parents, caregivers for parents and/or dependents need from their union. Once they’ve discerned the needs of the membership, union negotiators will meet employers armed with the arguments for better maternity/paternity pay, paid family leave, childcare arrangements that best benefit parents and shift patterns that reflect the day-to-day uncertainty of caring for others. On the political front they will be working closely with their legislators to press for changes in the law that will make caregivers’ lives easier. It will not be an easy campaign, but the rights of parents and caregivers are now firmly on the union agenda. For more details of the campaign, go to
* Adapted from press release - USDAW website

Canada Labour Leads Movement for National Child Care System

Organized labour in Canada is playing a significant role in the movement for a national, non-profit child care system. And it looks like Canada’s child care advocates are the closest they’ve been to realizing their dream of a national system of early learning and care. The Canadian government has promised $5 billion over five years for a national program and plans to negotiate the system’s framework with provincial and territorial governments in January 2005.

But promises for a system have been made—and broken—twice in the last 20 years, and activists are taking nothing for granted. A broad coalition that includes child care advocacy groups, unions, parents and providers has been working non-stop to make sure the politicians get the essentials right from the start.

“Incredible mobilization is happening across the country from coast to coast,” said Jamie Kass of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, who co-chairs the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada’s Council of Advocates. “We’re writing letters, lobbying at the provincial and federal levels and have launched a campaign to send toy building blocks to the politicians along with a message outlining the fundamentals of a good system.”

These fundamentals are:

Organized labour has been meeting with key politicians and spearheading the campaign to make national child care non-profit. The Canadian Union of Public Employees obtained a legal opinion showing that failure to limit expansion of the system to the non-profit sector would open the way under international trade deals for big-box commercial child care chains to set up shop in Canada.

For labour, a child care system is important for providing access to working parents, especially women, to quality, dependable and affordable child care. Unions also believe that the system must be non-profit in order to better respond to the needs of families, not the bottom line.

There is no doubt that Canada needs a national child care system. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Development criticized the fragmented, poorly funded and marginalized state of child care services in most of Canada, and recommended progressive government policies and sustainable public investments. For advocates, this only confirms what they’ve been saying for decades: governments must take the lead and act to solve the child care crisis in Canada. For more information:


GOOD JOBS includes work and family supports like quality child care, use of sick days to care for a family member, paid family leave and flexible work hours that the worker controls. Here are some FIRST STEPS to begin addressing these issues.


2. GATHER INFORMATION 3. START A WORK/FAMILY COMMITTEE 4. DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGY Moving a work and family agenda forward takes time. Committee members will remain energized and motivated by success not frustration so set small, reachable goals. Be persistent and have lots of patience!

For information on contract language, surveys and family friendly laws, contact the Labor Project.
Note: Adapted from our new manual on work/family available in early February. Contact us for more information.


Bush Pushes New Overtime Rules Through: Setback for Working Families’ Paychecks

It was a long and hard fight but on November 18th, facing a presidential veto threat, Republican members of Congress removed important overtime pay protections from final 2005 spending bills.

What this means: Against the will of a majority of both houses of Congress, Bush has forced through new overtime eligibility rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) that affect the overtime pay rights of millions of workers. Example: Many administrative employees, team leaders, employees with even minimal supervisory responsibilities (such as working foremen) employees with computer-related duties, employees who perform some sales work outside the office, certain workers with creative control or any decision-making duties, and many others will no longer qualify for overtime. The fight to protect workers’ overtime rights will continue “in state legislatures, the courts and in Congress.”

To find out if you are one of the newly “exempt” from receiving overtime pay under the Bush administration rules, go to

Canada Law Allows Time Off to Care for the Gravely Ill

Now eligible Canadian workers who take time off work to care for a gravely ill family member can receive six weeks of Employment Insurance (similar to unemployment benefits in the US) benefits over a period of six months. Their jobs will be protected.

The benefit, entitled “Compassionate Care,” applies to all workers entitled to Employment Insurance benefits who need to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member with a significant risk of death within 6 months. The basic benefit rate is 55% of the workers average insured earnings up to a maximum payment of $413 per week. Employees can receive compassionate care benefits to care for a close family member. Employees can apply for the benefit to provide care themselves or use the time to arrange for care by a health care professional. For more information go to


Helping America's Working Parents: “What Lessons Can We Learn from Europe and Canada?"
This paper, by Janet C. Gornick and Marcia K. Meyers, addresses several myths about international work/family policies and makes a clear argument for applying international policy lessons in the United States. The U.S. lags far behind other nations on paid family leave, working time regulations, and affordable child care. When it comes to negotiating work and family, parents in the U.S. have a much narrower range of options than parents living elsewhere. The new report provides compelling data and a number of policy proposals to address the growing pressures on working parents. A summary issue brief is available at

Sloan Work and Family Research Network Newsletter
The Network News is now available on line. The Sloan Work and Family Research Network, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Boston College, serves a global community of individuals interested in work and family research by providing resources and helping build the work/family community. Upcoming issues of The Network News will focus on:

For the latest copy, go to:

Labor Family News is published quarterly by:

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Netsy Firestein

Jenya Cassidy
Managing Editor

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