By Jenya Cassidy
Great news! The California Work & Family Coalition has a new home. We will be joining the offices of Next Generation in San Francisco. Next Generation is a national non-profit that promotes solutions to the biggest threats facing us: climate change and the growing economic uncertainty that diminishes prospects for children and families. With Next Generation, we will continue our work expanding all Californians’ access to family leave, paid sick days, and other benefits important to working families. This new partnership will provide broader opportunities for both groups to create positive change, both in California and as part of the growing national movement to improve the economic security of children and families.
Since helping pass the country’s first Paid Family Leave law in 2002, the California Work and Family Coalition has continued to advance legislative campaigns to improve and expand California workers’ rights to put family first. In 2011, we passed SB 299 — a law that protects pregnant women from losing their health benefits while on leave. And for the past few years, we have been building momentum behind campaigns to win paid sick days for all workers, expand family leave rights to additional family members and enhance the rights of parents and caregivers in the workplace. With Next Generation, we will have the opportunity to engage new partners in this important work.
In addition to advocating for new legislation, the Coalition has become the go-to source of information on existing California leave laws. Our Paid Family Leave website, Family Leave Laws booklet, and Six Key Laws poster are in high demand. Our Know Your Rights training has been an effective way to educate and involve community leaders and advocates in our statewide work. Since recent studies show that low- income workers are less likely to be aware of Paid Family Leave, we know that passing a law is just the first step. That’s why improved implementation and public education around existing law are fundamental goals of each Coalition member organization. We will have an even greater capacity to continue our education and leadership building with Next Generation. Creating and strengthening an informed, vocal constituency for family leave rights is our most important work.
California is unique ….We have stronger family leave laws than many states, but we also have a greater need. California has the highest poverty rate due to the high cost of living – especially in its cities. Many Californians work more than one job just to make ends meet. We have the highest rate of multiple generations living under one roof, and these workers benefit greatly when paid family leave and family leave rights are expanded. We are excited that with Next Generation, we can build a movement in California that responds to the particular needs of our state while playing a role in the national movement for paid sick days and family leave rights.
We are excited to announce a new chapter in our work involving two powerful partnerships. Beginning July 1, the Labor Project will join forces with Family Values @ Work nationally and Next Generation in California to expand our efforts to win important work and family policies in California and across the country.
To build on our pioneering support of union bargaining on work and family issues and to strengthen alliances between labor and community coalitions, our national work and union resources will become a project of Family Values @ Work , a nationwide network of state coalitions organizing in 21 states. Through this relationship, which has been helping working families win in cities and states for the past 10 years — and with the continued leadership of Carol Joyner — we will deepen labor’s involvement in the grassroots movements that are winning change at the local level and creating momentum for new federal minimum standards. The Labor Project website and union resources, including our contract language database, will be housed with FV@W.
In California, the Labor Project has made great strides through the California Work and Family Coalition. The Coalition will continue and expand as a project of Next Generation, an organization working to improve prospects for children and families through public policy, private enterprise, family and individuals. Together, we’ve won a Paid Family Leave program — the first in the country — and passed other critical policies that are helping families in California and setting a precedent for other states to follow. Under the continued leadership of Jenya Cassidy, the California Coalition will keep fighting to expand family leave, paid sick days and other family rights.
As you know, as of September 2013, I am moving on to a different role in the movement after 20 amazing years at the Labor Project. I feel deeply honored to have worked with such a wide range of committed and strong activists for work and family issues, and hope that we will continue to work together in new ways.
I am very excited about our partnerships with Family Values @ Work and Next Generation, and for what the future holds. I know that these changes are the best way to sustain and grow our national efforts to strengthen the commitment of unions on work and family issues and to expand our California efforts around these policies.
In solidarity and gratitude for all you do,
Netsy Firestein, Executive Director
P. S. Celebrate our 20th anniversary and this transition to “Fund the Future” on July 26th in San Francisco – and come meet our new partners! More info at www.working-families.org
“The upcoming chapter is going to bring us to new heights. With the nationwide momentum behind our efforts, we are poised to deepen our relationships and win more rights and benefits for working families in California and across the country.”
–Art Pulaski, Labor Project Board Chair and Secretary-Treasurer, California Labor Federation
“Strengthening grassroots coalitions through the involvement of local labor unions has led to a record stretch of wins across the country. The Labor Project has been critical in making these connections, and we are proud to house this work.”
–Ellen Bravo, Executive Director, Family Values @ Work
“The California Work and Family Coalition has an impressive track record of improving the lives of families across our state. We share their deep commitment to families, and their belief that California can and should lead the nation on these issues. We’re excited to have them join the team at Next Generation.”
–Ann O’Leary, Director, Children and Families Program, Next Generation
By Jenya Cassidy, California Policy Director, Labor Project for Working Families
Big news for working parents: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer just doubled the amount of paid parental leave for her employees. Now Yahoo moms can take 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and new fathers can take eight weeks of paternity leave. Parents by adoption, foster or surrogacy can also take eight paid weeks off for bonding.
For Mayer, increasing parental leave is a good business decision. For families, parental leave is critical to the health and well-being of children and their economic security.
In the US, fewer than one in five employers provide any paid parental leave. We lag far behind other countries in workers’ access to paid leave but Mayer’s announcement takes place in the context of a growing national movement for paid family leave and paid sick days for all workers.
In California, where Yahoo! is headquartered, a group of unions and community organizations – the California Work and Family Coalition – took the lead in passing the nation’s first Paid Family Leave (PFL) law in 2002. PFL is an insurance benefit that most California workers pay into. It provides up to 6 weeks of partial pay to people who take time off work to bond with a new baby, adopted or foster child or to care for a seriously ill family member.
Paid Family Leave has positively impacted the health and well-being of families: according to a 2011 study, it doubled the duration of breastfeeding rates and increased the number of fathers taking time off for baby bonding. The same study shows that paid leave had either a beneficial effect or no effect on employer productivity or profitability. Over 60% of employers surveyed benefited from the program by using it to enhance their ability to help their employees, which increased retention.
But we still have work to do. Over half of Californians are unaware of the PFL program, and that number is even lower for low income, Latino, new immigrant and young workers. Also, many people who pay into PFL can’t access it because they work for a small employer and won’t have job protection when they take leave.
On April 10, I attended a hearing in the state capitol where a young woman testified in support of SB 761 (DeSaulnier), a bill that would prohibit employer retaliation against California workers who take Paid Family Leave. In her testimony, the woman cried as she described being terminated for taking Paid Family Leave to bond with her newly adopted children – family members whose parents had been killed in a car accident. She worked for a small employer and – though she paid into PFL – she did not have the right to take job-protected (FMLA) leave. So the employer exercised his ‘right’ to fire her for taking the time off.
This is the reality for many people – putting family first, even in an emergency, can cost them their jobs.
In California, we can change this by raising awareness of the state’s Paid Family Leave benefit, working to pass SB 761 to protect workers’ right to take paid family leave and work together to encourage more employers to follow Marissa Mayer’s lead in offering more than the law requires. I suggest we celebrate expanded family leave for Yahoo! workers by working toward making it the norm for all workers.