By Stefanie Kalmin, Labor Project for Working Families
Question: Are parents guaranteed time off from work to participate in their child’s elementary, middle or high school activities? Answer: In California, parents who work for employers of 25 or more can have unpaid time off through the Family-School Partnership Act. Too bad many parents don’t even know.
A parent may take up to 40 hours each year, but no more than 8 hours a month, for events such as field trips, parent-teacher conferences, and graduations. And the Act covers licensed child care facilities, as well.
While awareness is growing, there is still a huge gap in worker consciousness about national and state leave laws available for families to take care of their children. Even with the Family and Medical Leave Act, probably the best known of the leave opportunities, only 66.2% of all employees have heard of it, according to the most recent Department of Labor survey. The good news is that the number is inching up from 59.1 percent in 2000, in large part because the DOL has taken steps to publicize these rights through a guide and related webinar, factsheet, video and poster. The fact remains, however, that over 40% — a huge number of individuals — are unaware of what is their due. This is especially true among low-income and minority workers, many of the people who could benefit most from this law.
One can only assume that the number of uninformed gets even larger when talking about those less-publicized California parental leave rights such as pregnancy disability leave, paid family leave, sick leave use for family care, breast feeding, and, as noted, time off to attend a child’s school activities.
So, how best to reach people? The DOL survey found that the most common way workers learned about the FMLA was from their employers. Two-fifths heard about it through employer communications or the Human Resources Department. And, nearly half of workers at FMLA-covered businesses (49 percent) learned about the Act from a poster or other posted notice in the worksite.…which is where the California Work & Family Coalition stepped in. The Coalition, a collaboration of unions and community groups protecting every Californian’s right to a job and a life, has created “Six Key Laws for Parents.”
The poster clearly and succinctly lays out the California laws that allow employees to take time to nurture a child:
- Pregnancy disability leave
- Family & Medical Leave Act/California Family Rights Act
- Paid Family Leave Act
- Sick leave use for family care
- Family-School Partnership Act
- Lactation Accommodation laws
The state that brought its workers groundbreaking paid family leave needs to make sure that its workforce is aware of all that has been accomplished. And, what could be easier than displaying “Six Key Laws for Parents”? While the laws are complex, the poster is notable for its simplicity. It is a starting point. All workers in California should know this and more.
Six Key Laws for Parents can be ordered free of charge from the California Work & Family Coalition. Email your name, mailing address, and quantity desired, with the word “Poster” in the subject line.
By Barbara Andridge. This blog originally appeared on the website of the Women’s Media Center, March 20, 2013.
The author, a mom and a Walmart employee, wonders if Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who serves on the Walmart board, can advocate for her.
Three months after joining the Walmart Board of Directors in April 2012 and on the day she was named Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer announced that she was expecting her first child. I was proud that a woman had finally shattered what had for so long been an unbreakable glass ceiling. More importantly, I was heartened to think that I would finally have an advocate on Walmart’s board that would fight for workers like me who have children to provide for.
But when Marissa Mayer decided that telecommuting would no longer be an option for Yahoo employees, including Yahoo’s working moms, suddenly I wasn’t so sure that she would be my advocate.
I have worked at a Walmart store in Placerville, California, for eight years. When I got a job at the largest employer in the country, I thought that I had found a job that would let me create some financial stability for my family, but despite my hard work, every day continues to be a struggle. After eight years, I’m making $12.05 an hour, but what’s worse is that I can’t get scheduled for enough hours to make ends meet. Every week, I never know what my paycheck will be – it makes any kind of budgeting and saving nearly impossible.
This year, I had to drop my healthcare coverage when the premium went up – for the third year in a row. Of course, I want to be able to get to the doctor and make sure my daughter does too, but I’m also trying to put some money aside so that she can go to college next year. I am so hopeful that her future will be better than mine, but I’m also afraid about how I’ll help her get there without the savings that she’ll need to cover tuition.
I still believe that Marissa Mayer has an opportunity to change things at Walmart. I still believe that she understands what we working mothers have to go through, the difficult choices we have to make, the struggle to earn enough money to raise a family.
So far, Mayer has been silent on addressing workplace issues at Walmart, where hourly workers like me earn on average $8.81 an hour and all too often can’t get full-time work. But she is new to the Walmart Board of Directors; maybe she just needs to hear the voices of mothers like me speaking out.
The problem is, it’s hard for us to speak out right now. When we do, we’re threatened. I’ve seen some of my co-workers retaliated against for asking management for fairer wages, regular hours, and access to affordable healthcare.
But this is a stand I’m willing to take. Marissa Mayer, Walmart workers—not just working Walmart moms, but all Walmart workers—need you to be a leader.
Too many of us rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Too many Walmart associates can’t afford the company’s health insurance or aren’t eligible for it due to their part-time status. Too many women at Walmart earn less than our male coworkers at every level in the company—in 2001, for instance, we earned an average of $5,200 less per year than men in the same job, making it even harder for us to support our families.
Marissa Mayer, we’re calling on you to act. My hope is that, just like you did in climbing the corporate ladder, you will be a pioneer on Walmart’s board and help change the culture of America’s largest private-sector employer. You can be a voice for us. You can be a voice for change and a voice for a better Walmart. You have shattered so many glass ceilings in your career. Help us do the same in ours.
Barbara Andridge is an OUR Walmart member and working mother.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.
Originally posted on Family Forward Oregon
On March 13, 2013 the Mayor and City Commissioners of Portland, Oregon voted unanimously (5 to 0) to implement an earned sick time policy that will enable people who work in the city to earn sick time while they work, making Portland the 4th U.S. city to enact such a policy. The state of Connecticut and approximately 145 countries have also adopted paid sick leave standards. This is a big forward step for Portland’s economy – and all the people it touches — that will help employees better manage their work and health simultaneously, without jeopardizing one or the other.
About the problem: This policy solves a communitywide problem that has been adversely affecting the city’s public health and Portlanders’ economic security, student learning, employer productivity and parental caregiving. Everybody gets sick, but without a citywide standard like the one passed today, whether a person can afford to stay home when sick, or see a doctor when needed, or care for a sick child, or even keep their job through an illness, has depended on where they work.
And that’s a health equity and public health problem that the Portland City Council appropriately decided to solve. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), about 263,000 private-sector workers in the Portland area didn’t earn paid sick time in 2012, 121,300 of whom don’t earn any paid time off at all. Not an hour. This policy will change that – for the better. And everyone in the city will benefit.
About the policy: The policy will be effective January 1, 2014 and apply to all employers whose employees work 240 or more hours per year in the city. Part-time and full-time workers will accrue paid sick and safe time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked and be able to access it after 90 days on the job. For employers with five or fewer employees the time will be job-protected but not paid, and for employers with six or more employees the time will be both paid and job-protected. Accrued time will not roll over from calendar year to calendar year, nor will it be cashed out upon separation. Time can be used to care for oneself, a family member, or to handle domestic violence issues. [Read the final policy here: http://bit.ly/PdxFinalPolicy]
Everybody Benefits Coalition Coordinator and Family Forward Oregon Executive Director Andrea Paluso is pleased with both the process and the final policy:
“What an exciting moment for Portland! Our elected officials are leading our city toward a more just and healthy economy that works for more Portlanders. I am pleased both with the road that brought us to this historic vote and with the final policy the Portland City Council has put forth – refined with deep and broad stakeholder input.
Passing this policy brings us that much closer to a place where today’s employees can both provide for and responsibly care for their health and their families. Of course workers all across Oregon won’t benefit from this local policy, which is why we are already working closely with our state legislators toward a similar earned sick time law that will make Oregon’s entire workforce – and the economy it drives – healthier.”
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, which has 300 Portland small business members, actively supported a citywide earned sick time policy and talked to hundreds of local businesses about the problem and the solution. Jim Houser is Co-Chair of MSA’s Oregon Board of Directors:
“This is an important day of celebration for Portland employers and employees alike, who are both taking a big step toward a more socially sustainable model of work that will leave our city and its economy healthier and more productive. It feels great to be part of a solution that will directly benefit so many friends, colleagues and neighbors and that positions Portland as a leader in our country when it comes to a triple-bottom line economy. It’s a good day to be a Portlander and a Portland business owner!”
Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national network of 20 city and state coalitions, including the Everybody Benefits Coalition in Portland, focuses on working families and puts this Portland vote in national context:
“Policies like paid sick days are about more than keeping people healthy – they’re about keeping money in the pockets of working families so they can cover the basics. It holds our economy back when people lose their jobs and can’t cover the grocery bill because they caught the flu. Local groups are gaining momentum and will continue to advance family-friendly policies across the country, paving the way for national standards.”
Family Forward Oregon includes parents, employers, caregivers, and activists who are working together to create workplace and public policies that work for families.