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Another Boost for the Paid Sick Days Movement

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

More than a quarter million New Yorkers got a big boost yesterday when the City Council voted 45-6 to expand its paid sick days law. In a city where “a lot of people are one paycheck away from disaster,” as Mayor de Blasio put it in an interview with Chris Hayes, the vote constituted an important step to “change the rules and raise the floor.”

A tissue box and laptop among pillows in bed

More New York workers could soon have paid sick days.

The New York win added to the growing momentum of the paid sick days movement across the country. Behind each victory lies an important shift in this country: more workers seeing the possibility of change when they take action together, and more elected officials recognizing they need to be on the side of an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.

The New York legislation will require businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick time to its employees, as opposed to the current law that applies only to businesses with 15 or more employees. The legislation will now cover manufacturing firms, and extends the statute of limitations for complaints to three years from 270 days. Amendments also strengthen the ability of the enforcement agency to take proactive measures, such as audits and inspections, to ensure compliance with the law. And the expanded bill contains a more appropriate definition of family member, so workers can use a sick day to care for a grandparent, grandchild or siblings, not just a child or partner.

The New York City Earned Sick Time Act was originally adopted in June of 2013. The new legislation was sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin after being proposed last month by Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. It carries out the original demands of the broad coalition that worked for three years to pass the bill and comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio’s election, in which paid sick days played a pivotal role. Fifty-five percent of those polled (58% of women) – and 58 percent of women voters – said the fact that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delayed action on paid sick days for three years made them less likely to vote for her.  An overwhelming majority (73%, and 78% of women) said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports policies like paid sick days.

For most of the 1.2 million New Yorkers who will be covered as of April 1 of this year, the new law is key to keeping them from falling off the financial brink. Rafael Navor, a Brooklyn father of three and member of Make the Road New York, described a time he had the flu for a week and did what public health officials tell us to do – stayed home until his symptoms were gone.

“When I returned to work, my boss ran me off the job,” said Navor, a construction worker. “Unfortunately, this type of retaliation is very common in the construction industry. Paid sick days are a necessity for all workers and not a luxury. For construction workers like myself, who normally work with smaller firms, the new expansion of paid sick days is critical – and I want to thank and congratulate the City Council for today’s vote.”

The law’s new changes will help workers like Navor in smaller businesses who are least likely to have access to paid sick time now. The 2013 Unheard Third survey by the NY Community Service Society found that 64 percent of workers employed by businesses with fewer than 15 workers lack paid sick days compared to 38 percent of those in larger firms. According to Nancy Rankin, CSS Vice President for Policy Research , “the original law would have left out more than a quarter of workers who needed paid sick time.”

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States Power the Movement for New Family-Friendly Standards

11:20 am in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

Why are opponents so concerned about local communities deciding what’s best for the health and welfare of their residents?

Because these naysayers, fueled by lobbyists and financing from mega corporations, know such reforms lead to change statewide and nationally. Local wins provide living proof that minimum standards like paid sick days and paid family leave benefit families, businesses, public health and the economy. And growing victories tear to shreds the opponents’ predictions of doom.

That’s why Family Values @ Work is proud to present a blog carnival of Voices from the States in honor of the 21st anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The FMLA had a long birth – nine years in the making, twice passed by Congress and twice vetoed by George H. W. Bush, and finally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It was a great first step in establishing that caring for a family shouldn’t cost you your job.

But the law leaves out 40 percent of the workforce. Many who are covered can’t use the time. According to a 2012 study, two and a half times as many people as in 2000 were eligible and needing leave but didn’t take it, mostly because they couldn’t afford it. FMLA has a narrow definition of family (child, legally married spouse, parent). Siblings, grandparents and grandchildren apparently aren’t family. Neither are same-sex couples unless they’re legally married and living in a state with marriage equality.

The FMLA also doesn’t cover routine illness. If you’re eligible, you can take FMLA leave to care for your mom after she has a stroke – but you can still be fired or docked pay for taking her to the doctor to get her blood pressure down and prevent a stroke in the first place.

The good news is, in all parts of our nation, activists are building broad and diverse coalitions, raising awareness of the need for and the enormous benefits from new workplace protections. In our blog carnival, you’ll hear about workers and business partners and other allies who have gotten involved. You’ll see the various kinds of change our member coalitions are working for – and winning (new paid sick days standards in 8 cities and one state, paid family leave in 3 states, and many more wins on the horizon). You’ll hear from strong labor partners.

And you’ll get a whiff of the momentum building throughout this land that will eventually bring us new national standards.

From President Obama to federal, state and local elected officials, to editorial boards in prominent dailies and small weeklies, the call is growing.

As the president put it in his State of the Union speech, every woman “deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Join our 21 coalitions in working to end the madness.

 

Clinton, de Blasio Speak Out For Paid Sick Days

4:38 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

 

2014 promises another string of wins for policies like paid sick days that boost the economic security of families and of the economy overall. Recently two political leaders reminded us of the urgency of our task.

On New Year’s Day, Bill de Blasio spoke to a large audience at his inauguration as the 109th mayor of New York City. There he affirmed his commitment to take on the issue of inequality – and began his list of policy changes with expanding the city’s new paid sick days law:

When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; it will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; it will be accomplished by all of us – those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.

You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law — because no one should be forced to lose a day’s pay, or even a week’s pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won’t wait.

As Mayor de Blasio pointed out, the urgency of the “inequality crisis… is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds.” Like the thousands of activists across the country fighting for and winning paid sick days, Mayor deBlasio understands that we wage this fight “not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people,” and because “our responsibility to each other – our common cause – is to leave no [one] behind.”

Just a few weeks earlier, former President Bill Clinton spoke at an event for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.  President Clinton began by describing cities as models for innovation, a place where “you start with a challenge, a problem or an opportunity, you figure out how to solve it and you work through to a practical solution.” And the example he gave was paid sick days.

“I’m really excited about what the mayor’s doing here,” President Clinton said. “I hope you support what he did on paid leave.  I hope you’re proud of the fact that Jersey City is only the sixth city in the country to do that. That’s a big deal. Why? Because one of the key challenges of a growing country is to get men and women into the workforce while their kids are still young. In order to do that, you have to make it possible for people to balance work and family. So this sick leave deal is a big thing.”

The new laws in Portland, Oregon and SeaTac, Washington went into effect on January 1. Watch for Newark, NJ to bring in the next win later this week as campaigns heat up in cities and states across the country. Our coalitions will continue to prevail because families need this change now - and more leaders are championing these policies because it’s smart politics, given the widespread, bipartisan support.

Protesters Expose NFIB Bus Tour in Orlando

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

Karl Rove, The math behind the curtain

Caricature of Karl Rove

When the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) rolled into Orlando with its “I Built My Business” bus tour, they ran into some unexpected company – a crowd of 70 local business owners, community leaders, and Orlando voters who rejected the group’s claims to be a legitimate representative of small business.  The protesters, some wearing Karl Rove masks, held signs proclaimed ‘NFIB Fibs,’ and ‘NFIB:  Karl Rove Built It,’ referring to the $3.7 million support to the group from Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

“I’m a small business owner in Orlando, and I can tell you that Karl Rove has never supported a group that represents my values, my interests, or my needs,” said Homer Hartage, CEO of Nuchia Foods Corporation, a gluten free manufacturer with 22 employees. “NFIB is using small businesses as a mask to spend Karl Rove’s millions on ideological, right-wing campaigns that have nothing to do with what it takes to run a small business in Orlando.”

While NFIB enjoys tax-exempt status and claims to be “non-partisan” and “the voice of small business,” the group has come under close media scrutiny since the launch of www.NFIBexposed.org, an investigative website by the Center for Media and Democracy, which put a spotlight on the NFIB’s partisan agenda and special-interest funding.

Partisan Agenda

As the website discloses, NFIB’s endorsements and financial backing overwhelmingly support Republican candidates, even though polling shows small businesses remain firmly divided in their political affiliations. Recent reports show that 98 percent of NFIB’s PAC contributions to federal candidates in the 2012 election cycle have gone to Republicans and that the organization is spending millions of dollars this year in political advertising.  This includes a $2 million ad campaign supporting eight Republican Congressional candidates in competitive races.

In fact, the majority of those with NFIB at the Orlando event were associated with Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican in a close election race with Democrat Val Demings. A woman known to the protesters asked the NFIB membership recruiter at the event about help starting her own business. The recruiter, whose card listed him as “Field Sales Representative,” told her to call once she got the business started.

The main NFIB speaker was a hedge fund owner from out of town who’s “considering expanding” his business, already located in Dallas, New York, Atlanta & New Orleans.

Secret Funding

NFIB has also come under fire for acting as a conduit for secret special interest donors. In 2010, the same year Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS made a $3.7 million grant to NFIB, the group reported spending $3.1 million on ads through Crossroads Media, LLC, Crossroads GPS’s main media firm. The group’s 990s from 2011 also reveal group donations of $850,000 and $1.6 million, but the donor names have been redacted.  This year, NFIB established a new entity, called “NFIB, The Voice of Free Enterprise,” for the express purpose of taking money from people and groups who are not small business owners.

A search of NFIB’s IRS filings also reveals more than $10 million in big-dollar donations from undisclosed sources—raising serious questions about how NFIB is representing small businesses and the true nature of the group’s agenda.

Many of the protesters were active in the fight for earned sick days in Orange County, a common sense measure NFIB strongly opposes.

“NFIB calling itself ‘independent’ and ‘non-partisan’ is a joke,” said Damien Filer, political director of Progress Florida. “This group doesn’t care about local businesses.  It’s time to start calling NFIB what it is, an integral part of the GOP’s election infrastructure.”
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Fight Voter Suppression in Orlando

9:18 am in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

This is what democracy does NOT look like:

Hundreds of community activists, faith leaders, business owners and others in Orange County, Florida, identified the need for workers to earn paid sick days as a critical way to keep jobs and boost the economy. They scrupulously followed all the rules. That included spending weeks gathering signatures, enough to have 50,000 verified. Opponents placed numerous hurdles in front of them; they cleared every one. The Earned Sick Time initiative was set to go on the ballot.

And then their opponents, led by lobbyists for multi-billion dollar corporations such as Disney and Darden, decided this democracy thing wasn’t going to go their way. Polls and op eds and letters to the editor, the buzz in grocery stores and bodegas, beauty salons and church pews, show public opinion favors the ordinance.

After all, no one wants to lose their job or paycheck for being a good parent to a sick child or following doctor’s orders when they themselves fall ill.

And no one wants to be served flu with their food.

So what’s a big lobbyist to do?

First they tried a lawsuit. The courts just threw that out.

Then they tried to push Orlando Mayor Teresa Jacobs to keep the measure off the ballot. Even though she opposes the Earned Sick Time measure, the Mayor understood that citizens in her jurisdiction followed the proper processes, and that she could not stand in the way.

The special interests’ next move was to try to muddy the waters, add a second contrary ballot initiative that would undo the Earned Sick Time measure, even if it passed. This method comes courtesy of the group ALEC, a shadowy collaboration between corporate lobbyists and state legislators that produces model legislation such as the notorious Stand Your Ground law along with bills to attack workers’ rights and suppress the vote.

The pre-emption move didn’t work either. But the special interests did get a slim majority of the Commissioners to commit a shocking abdication of responsibility. According to the Commission’s charter, the elected officials’ job was clear: within 30 days, approve the initiative themselves or turn it over to the voters to decide in the next election. Period. No other legal option exists.

Instead, by a vote of 4-3, the Commission chose to hire an outside attorney to suggest revisions to the ballot initiative language and bring those back to the board Oct. 16. That would be almost a month past the deadline printing the ballot.

The execs at these giant corporations all earn paid sick days. So do every one of the Commissioners — thanks to taxpayer dollars.

It’s hard to understand why they don’t want the workers who serve food, take tickets at attractions and clean hotel rooms also to be able to earn paid time off when they’re sick. But if that’s how they feel, the democratic process allows them to say so loud and clear.

What it doesn’t allow is for them to steal the democratic right of voters to decide for themselves.

As Marion Washington, chair of Citizens for a Greater Orange County, put it, “Earned Sick Time enjoys more than 80% support among Hispanics and African Americans.  By silencing these voices, commissioners have pulled the curtain back on an ugly political system where there is one set of rules for special interests and politicians – they all have earned sick time – and another for the hardworking families that make Orange County a premier destination for travelers the world over.”

You Can Help

Here’s what you can do to support democracy in Orange County:

Call, email, Facebook and tweet the commissioners demanding them to follow the law and refer Earned Sick Time to the ballot. You can get their contact information here:

http://orangecountyfl.net/

For those who have family, friends or organization members living in Orange County, please show up at the Commission meeting on September 18 to stand up for democracy.

They can’t steal our votes – and they can’t steal our ballots.

End Unchecked Use of ‘Job Killer’ Allegations

10:11 am in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

The right wing relies on an old method of deception:  repeat something often enough and people will begin to accept it as fact.

And when the media acts as a conduit for delivering this message without verification, false truths spread at a rapid pace.

A new media study by two academics reviewed the use of the term “job killer” in major media outlets going back to 1984. They found the number of news stories alleging that some government reform would be a “job killer” increased by 1,156% between the first three years of the George W. Bush administration and the first three years of the Obama administration.

Not only did the media repeat the right’s rhetoric, nine out of ten of these stories (91.6%) failed to cite any evidence for the claim. The allegations were targeted at policies like paid sick days and other measures intended to safeguard consumers, protect the environment, raise wages, expand health insurance coverage, increase taxes on the wealthy, and make workplaces safer.

The study, “Job Killers” in the News:  Allegations without Verification, by Professors Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher R. Martin of the University of Northern Iowa, also analyzed the sources for such allegations. In three-fifth of the stories (60.3%,), the source was a spokesperson for big business or Republican party official. Nearly another fifth (17%) used the phrase in an article or editorial without attributing it to any source at all.

“By failing to seek to verify allegations made about government policies and proposals, the news media typically act more like a transmission belt for business, Republican, and conservative sources than an objective seeker of truth when it comes to the term ‘job killer’,” Dreier and Martin reported.

The Power or Journalism

The authors cite Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, who point out that verification is “the essence of journalism.” It is what separates journalism from propaganda, “which selects facts or invents them to serve the real purpose: persuasion and manipulation.”

Dreier and Martin’s study showed the “significant ripple effect” of this irresponsible practice across the news media. A single allegation of “job killer” from a prominent news source like the Associated Press can snowball into thousands of results in a Google search.

“Allegations without Verification” has already gotten lots of press coverage including on NPR, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress, Media Matters and other outlets around the country.

We need to make sure the mainstream media reads it as well – and takes stock of what we hope are inadvertent efforts to be a mouthpiece for the right.

Who Speaks for Small Business? Not the NFIB

12:50 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

The National Federation of Independent Businesses loves to wrap itself in the flag of neighborhood Mom and Pop shops when it lobbies on Capitol Hill, but many small business owners maintain the NFIB’s agenda doesn’t address their priorities, and say the lobbying group even fights against policies that small businesses need. As Reuters recently reported, “the NFIB uses the politically valuable mantle of small business to pursue an agenda that may take its cues from elsewhere.”

Listen to Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who identifies the NFIB as a “‘small-business pretender’ and ‘lapdog’ of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” in the Reuters article.

Or take it from Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Live Music, a café and music venue in Elhurst, NY. “They disguise themselves as mom and pop shops,” says Castiblanco. “But they don’t speak for me.”

Reuters details the NFIB’s record of lobbying for issues that benefit big businesses, not necessarily small ones: “Consider a widespread state tax loophole that lets big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot transfer income to out-of-state subsidiaries. This loophole often allows the chain retailers to pay no state income tax, while small businesses do. Yet the NFIB has fought against closing such loopholes.”

Reuters also referred to New Jersey cabinetmaker J. Kelly Conklin, who in April wrote this in the Hill: “Whether we’re talking about health care or taxes (or both at the same time), NFIB always seems to side with the big fellas – big insurance, big banking, big business – not little guys like me. Why? I don’t know.”

For more information, see the piece Family Values @ Work published together with Democracy Strategies, titled: “The National Federation of Independent Business? Driving a far-right political agenda far from the needs of small business.”

As that document points out, the NFIB in 2010 received a gift of $3.7 million from Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS – a contribution which a Wall Street Journal opinion piece described as part of a “trial run” at what Crossroads called “funding the right,” adding that Crossroads CEO Steven Law considered the initiative “money well spent.”

The appreciation was mutual. In that same year, the NFIB reported paying more than $3 million for “advertising services” to Crossroads Media LLC, a Virginia-based firm that does media placement for American Crossroads and shares office space with a number of other Super PACs.

Figures for 2011 and 2012 are not yet public.

The NFIB has also been far from independent in its allocation of PAC money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly 94% of NFIB’s PAC contributions went to Republicans in 2010. This election cycle, the figure is closer to 98%.

NFIB leadership is deeply rooted in conservative Republican politics. The organization’s president, Dan Danner, served as deputy director in the White House Office of Public Liaison under Reagan. Chief lobbyist Susan Eckerly worked in George W. Bush’s Labor Department. And the group recently retained Mark Warren, former chief counsel of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, as a lobbyist.

Yet small business owners are much more diverse in their political views. According to a New York Times blog, in a poll of small-business owners commissioned by American Express OPEN, respondents were nearly evenly divided among those identifying as Republicans (33 percent,) Democrats (32 percent) and independent or unaffiliated (29 percent).

Who speaks for small business? Many voices – but not the NFIB.

The Gifts Mothers Really Want

8:53 am in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

My favorite Mother’s day gifts from my sons were their original stories, songs and poems. But what I needed when they were infants and toddlers was something children can’t deliver:  affordable time off when they were born and when they were sick.

Mother and Daughter, Canary Islands. Photo by Epsos.de

So for all those candidates and elected officials interested in the women’s vote and eager to prove their support for motherhood and families, here’s a sampling of what mothers want and need, not just one day a year but every day:

The right to care for a sick child or personal illness without losing our paychecks or our jobs. Moms need leaders to actively support the right for workers to earn paid sick days and champion local, state and federal policies that would guarantee this protection. Make sure no one has to choose between being a good parent and being a good employee – and that no one has to serve you flu with your soup.

The right to coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Half of private sector workforce employees aren’t covered by this law because they work for an employer with fewer than 50 workers, haven’t been on the job for at least 12 months or work less than 25 hours a week. Moms need Members of Congress to work to expand FMLA to cover all employees after 90 days of employment.

The ability to afford leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Many who are covered under FMLA can’t afford to take the time without pay.  As a result, nearly three million eligible workers a year who need leave to care for their health or the health of a loved one don’t take it. And nearly 9 percent of those who do (including 20 percent for low-income families) are forced to rely on public assistance to keep food on the table. Moms need leaders to voice their support for policies to create family leave insurance funds like those that are working in California and New Jersey so that caring for a new or seriously ill child doesn’t trigger financial catastrophe.

The right to care for one’s partner regardless of their gender. Being able to marry who you love – and being able to care for one another in sickness as well as in health – shouldn’t be a gift, it should be a right.  Moms are glad to see more of our leaders standing up for the rights of all families by supporting marriage equality legislation and bills to expand FMLA access to same-sex partners.

The right to attend children’s school activities. Far too many children in this country never see their mom at a school play or sporting event because employers won’t let them take off work or re-arrange their schedules.  Mothers need leaders to support the right to use family leave to do what’s best for raising our children.

A recognition that men are parents, have parents and also need time to care. All the policies listed above are gender-neutral.  Moms – and dads – need leaders to end on-the-job punishment of men who want to be good fathers, sons and husbands. That will also boost women’s efforts to get men to share the work at home.

This list flows from deeply held American values: that no one should have to risk a job to be a good family member or put a loved one at risk in order to keep a job. Mothers want basic standards that guarantee these rights to everyone.

And candidates, if you don’t believe me, check the polls. More and more voters – from all political perspectives – say they’re more likely to support candidates who’ll make sure family values don’t end at the workplace door, and who understand that for the economy to recover, we need policies like these to help people stay employed and have money to spend at local businesses.

Doing the politically smart thing for moms is also doing the right thing for families and for our nation.