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National Paid Family Leave May Finally Be on the Horizon

6:12 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is one of the sponsors of the bill to support paid leave insurance for families. (Flickr / personaldemocracy / Creative Commons)

Originally published at In These Times

Any working parent will tell you that raising a family might as well be another full-time job—one that comes with no vacation days or health benefits. But millions of Americans don’t get days off from their regular job, either, even for the sake of their health or their family’s.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), just 12 percent of American workers can take paid leave time to tend to an illness in their household, and only about 40 percent can get time off for themselves through employer-sponsored disability coverage. This gap affects about two-fifths of the private sector workforce, or 40 million people—a vast deficit compared to many other industrialized countries, where paid leave is routine.

Now, though, some lawmakers are recognizing that taking a few weeks off to deal with a health challenge shouldn’t hurt your paycheck. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have sponsored legislation to establish a nationwide paid family leave insurance program that would partially protect the wages of workers who take time off for the medical needs of themselves or their families.

Financed by small contributions from payroll checks and employers, the program would allow workers to “take time for their own serious health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth recovery; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; and/or for particular military caregiving and leave purposes,” according to a briefing by NPWF, who is one of the groups campaigning for the bill, known as the Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY) Act.

The proposed monthly benefits would generally range from $580 to $4,000, depending on income. Like Social Security taxes, the insurance would require a small payroll deduction from the employee and would enable workers to earn as much as two-thirds of their regular weekly earnings for 12 weeks. After the first year, the payment rate would increase based on the average national wage. Overall, advocates say, the federal program would help provide stability for many low-income and precariously employed people by covering workers in any size workplace at any income level, including part-timers.

With the state of current legislation, activists point out, even workers with some insurance coverage may experience extreme hardship when a child’s illness destabilizes a family. In a testimony gathered by the New York State Paid Family Leave Coalition, a mother named Devorah from Rosendale, N.Y. recalled the hardships she faced when her daughter was born premature with a severe medical condition and continued to suffer from long-term medical problems in later years. Though her family had some insurance protection, Devorah said, “By the time we walked out of the hospital with our baby, we had spent an additional $30,000 out of pocket.” In her daughter’s first years, she went on:

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Without Workplace Justice, Parents Have No Good Options for Sick Kids

5:50 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Originally posted at In These Times

Every working parent knows what it’s like to have one of those days: a child suddenly comes down with an illness, gets sent home from daycare due to health concerns, and without a back-up care arrangement, the rest of the day has to be taken off, thus toppling over the tenuous work-life balance. Such emergencies happen all the time, but for low-income families, neither the typical workplace, nor government welfare policies, give working parents the leeway and the time they need to care for ill family members.

According to a recent survey of parents using childcare by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, about six out of 10 parents said that a child’s illness prevented them from attending their regular childcare in the past year, with four in 10 reporting that occurred “three or more times during the year.”

When dealing with children’s sudden illnesses, parents run into myriad barriers, according to the study:

One-half of parents with children in child care report that finding alternative or back-up child care for their sick children is difficult. In addition, about one-third of parents say taking time off of work with a sick child is difficult because they may lose pay or lose their job, and a similar proportion report that they do not receive enough paid time off from work to care for their sick children.

The lack of options might lead parents to seek more immediate, alternative forms of care, such as the emergency room, rather than regular doctor care. That could cost the entire healthcare system more in the long run. Read the rest of this entry →

Restaurant Workers Target Unsavory Labor Practices at Darden

3:45 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

ROC United / Dignity at Darden

Cross-posted from In These Times

America is what it eats, and our restaurants, where we wolf down everything from Belgian fries to sushi, serve up the best and the worst of our economy.  Behind every elegant table is a churning, stressed out kitchen, staffed with workers who may be barely able to feed their own families.

While restaurant owners scarf up profits, workers with the Restaurant Opportunities Center are biting back with a multi-city campaign against a company that represents the one-percent of the food service industry. They have launched protests as well as legal action against Darden, which runs Capital Grille, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other prominent eateries.

According to the lawsuit, Capital Grille workers in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago  were subjected to grueling work schedules and underpayment of wages, and sometimes were forced to work “off the clock” and denied overtime. Some tipped workers allegedly had their wages siphoned off to supplement the pay of non-tipped employees. There are also allegations of systematic racial discrimination—complaints that black workers were pushed out of the job and told they “didn’t meet Capital Grille standards.” In recent months, workers from other cities have also come forward with complaints about mistreatment.

The litigation is part of a grassroots campaign to expose unsavory labor practices throughout the restaurant sector. ROC’s organizing work in New York, Chicago, the Washington, DC area, Los Angeles and Miami has revealed patterns of exploitation that reflect business as usual in an industry that routinely fattens its profit margins by skirting regulations and squeezing labor costs. Read the rest of this entry →