Watch: Voices from the Front Lines

Voices from the Front Lines – a powerful new video from Family Values @ Work – combines a series of real-life vignettes about the struggles of working families across the country. From new moms forced back to work days after giving birth to hard-working dads stringing together part-time jobs to make a living wage, these powerful stories show why work doesn’t work for too many families and how new policies can make a difference.

For over a decade, EOI has championed working family policies like paid leave, living wages, access to retirement savings accounts, affordable health care and other critical benefits. Our Work and Family Coalition is leading the fight for Family and Medical Leave Insurance and paid sick and safe days in the state legislature.

Help spark a dialogue on how we can support our working families by sharing this video with your family, neighbors and community leaders.

Equal Pay for Women Requires Paid Time to Care

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work Consortium

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work Consortium

As we pause to commemorate Equal Pay Day – the day well into the year when the earnings of women working full time catch up with men’s earnings from the previous year – many people are asking why women earn so much less than men. The answer? Because women’s employers pay them so much less – including little or no time to do the caregiving for which women still have primary responsibility. That lack in compensation costs women hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Here’s the rub – in our nation that is supposed to value families and personal responsibility, being a good parent or following doctor’s orders affects your ability to stay employed, to advance, to build assets or even to pay your bills. Lose a job for staying home with a sick child and it may be harder to get the next one. Take a little time to care for your dying father and you may find yourself in bankruptcy court – and that can affect your credit rating and your ability to get hired at the next job. Take a few years to raise young children and your next starting pay – and all the lifetime of raises based on that pay – may take a hit from which you’ll never recover.

Conservatives argue that women would get equal pay with men if they didn’t take breaks. Having a baby may be a joy – but it’s not a break. Studies show that women who experience an interruption in employment do experience a decrease in wages – a reflection of the notion that they’ve taken a “break” and lowered their value by “not working.”

Many new moms who wind up out of a job would be delighted to go back to the one they had — but their employer prevents it. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits firing someone for being pregnant, but it does not require holding their job open until that person heals from childbirth. The Family and Medical Leave Act does include that job protection, but it leaves out 40 percent of the workforce. At the time when they need a steady income the most, too many moms risk losing their jobs when they have a child.

fvaw caregiverNow for the good news: there are tested policy solutions to correct these problems. The drop in income is less likely to happen when women have access to paid family leave. Researchers Houser and Vartanian found evidence that paid family leave boosts the chance that women will return to the workforce and receive pay increases once they do.

An analysis of the impact of California’s paid leave program on leave-taking and post-birth employment found that paid family leave increases a woman’s attachment to the firm that she works in, as well as increasing the number of hours that she works after returning to the job.

In short, common sense policies like a family leave insurance fund not only strengthen families and lower turnover, they would also help lessen the gender wage gap. Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro have introduced a federal bill, the FAMILY Act, to create such a fund. And President Obama has included money in the budget for a State Paid Leave Fund, grants to states to help them start similar programs on the state level.

Other public policies would help as well. Guaranteeing that workers can earn paid sick time would help stop income and job loss that impacts women’s earnings. So would proposed credits for caregiving in determining social security income.

These aren’t the only solutions. We need to restore the lost value of the minimum wage (where women are the majority of workers) and remove the barriers from workers choosing to belong to a union. We need parity for part-timers, who are also disproportionately female – no law currently requires that they get the same base rate, even when doing the same job for the same company. And we need an end to salary secrecy, as President Obama is ordering today for federal contractors.

But we’ll never solve the problem of women’s lower – and often really low – pay until we also ensure that women and men have access to affordable time for caregiving.

“Great” Alternatives to Paid Sick Days

Kids are gross. Inspiring, cuddly, lovable, yes – but also: gross. I had barely heard of things like pink eye, ringworm and foot and mouth disease until I became a mom. My kid even got scarlet fever – Oregon Trail much?

All kids get sick sometime, but nothing makes a 2 am vomit session worse than the additional worry that you’ll lose your job if you can’t go in to work the next day.

Unfortunately, that nightmare is a reality for far too many people in the United States. In fact, today, 40% of all workers and 80% of low-wage workers cannot earn even a single paid sick day to care for themselves or a sick kid. [1,2]

Fortunately, we’ve come up with some GREAT alternatives to paid sick days. Why stay home to care for a sick little one when you can…

1. Take ‘em to Congress or City Hall!

I especially recommend this plan for states like Florida and Pennsylvania where some legislators actually want it to be illegal for cities within the state to pass laws that guarantee sick leave. [3,4]

2. Hide ‘em under your desk!

True story! At we receive tons of stories from moms and dads across the country who’ve had to take their sick kids to work with them. And since your darling vomiting babe will likely get you sick too, you’ll have an impressive pile of tissues to hide them with! Bonus!

3. Don’t get sick. Ever.

If you do get sick you can break out a haz-mat suit to keep it from your kids. In fact, you should probably wear one all the time.

We all know a supportive partner can make all the difference, but since pretty much no one can afford to have a parent stay home full time, a supportive partner might end up being thrown under the “sick day bus” by having to stay home even when they can’t afford to, which brings us to idea #4….

4. Win the chance to go to work.

If “Rock, Paper, Scissors” won’t fly you can always try shouting “Not it!” or “Nose goes.”

You might even be lucky to have a supportive job that has emergency childcare for sick kids. LOL, just kidding, but I hear Craigslist has great babysitters. If not you can always…

5. Hire a lion to babysit!

*If for some reason none of these horrible ideas appeal to you, there is one more thing you could try…

*If for some reason none of these horrible ideas appeal to you, there is one more thing you could try...

MomsRising is working with folks in cities across the country to organize for paid sick days – and we’re WINNING! Seven cities and one state have earned paid sick days for most workers and dozens of other campaigns are in the works, including a campaign for a national standard! Join us in the fight for paid sick days here!


Art by David Mansfield at A is for Effort

Via MomsRising, a member of the Washington Work and Family Coalition. Originally posted on Buzzfeed.

President Obama Calls for Paid Leave Policies

By Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work Consortium

In his most expansive statement yet in support of paid leave policies, President Barack Obama declared that women deserve “workplace policies that protect her right to have a baby without losing her job, [and] to take a day off to care for a sick child or a parent without running into hardship.”

The President spoke to students at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida. He called on Congress to bring this country into line with “every other advanced nation on Earth by offering paid leave to folks who work hard every day.” And he laid out the clear choice for members of Congress, saying they “will have to choose between helping women and families get ahead or holding them back.”

A hallmark of the President’s speech was the link between what women need and what the economy needs. “We’ve got to make sure that every woman has the opportunities that she deserves — because when women succeed, America succeeds,” he said.

Referring to the best practices of successful companies, President Obama said, “It turns out that if you give your workers some flexibility so that if they’ve got a sick child or a sick parent they can have a little time off, those employees are more productive, the companies do better, you have less turnover. So it’s good business practice. It’s the right thing to do.”

In addition to paid sick days and paid family leave, the President described a number of other policies that Congress should pass, including the Paycheck Fairness Act and a raise in the minimum wage “at a time when women hold a majority of low-wage jobs.” Doing so will create customers with more money in their pockets – and that, said the President, will “grow the economy for everyone.”


Family Values @ Work member coalitions are helping plan the series of regional roundtable discussions the President mentioned to hear people’s stories around the country. Those events will culminate in what he described as the “first ever” White House Summit on Working Families June 23.

We look forward to bringing forward the stories of those working hard to win paid sick days and paid family leave policies, and to partnering with elected officials to bring us out of the “Mad Men era” and into the twenty-first century.

Via Family Values @ Work

Employers Report Modest Use of Paid Sick Days

Maybe you’ve had that early morning moment of anxiety when you wake up with a fever and a cough that won’t stop and you think ‘Should I go to work today?’  If you’re lucky, your employer offers a few paid days off in case of illness and you can roll over to get some much needed rest. Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. More than 41 million working Americans, in industries from fast food to health, education and social services, face the dilemma of taking time to recover from an illness or losing a day’s pay.

Currently, only seven cities in the United States and the state of Connecticut have laws mandating some type of paid sick leave. Yes, that is as bad as it sounds. To give a little context, the United States is the only one of 22 rich nations that doesn’t require employers to provide even a single day of paid sick leave. And though opponents claim that these laws are job- killers and anti-business, recent research indicates that this is not at all the case. In particular, my CEPR colleagues Eileen Appelbaum and Teresa Kroeger recently published a report — co-authored by CUNY’s Ruth Milkman and Luke Elliot — that assesses the impact of Connecticut’s paid sick leave law on business. A number of media outlets have taken note of the policy, and the lessons learned from the experiences of Connecticut employers are valuable for employers, employees and legislators across the nation.

The groundbreaking report, “Good for business? Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law,” draws upon data from a survey of Connecticut employers and onsite interviews to analyze the effects of the law, now in its third year of implementation, on businesses in the state. Contrary to the claims made by foes of the policy, the paid sick leave law has had little or no impact on businesses. In fact, over three quarters of the employers surveyed reported that they were supportive of the law. The report documents a wealth of insights on paid sick leave policies in practice. But I want to zero in on one point in particular that the authors make about the number of days of leave used by employees.

In the Connecticut report, the authors note that the average number of paid sick days available to workers rose from 6.9 days before the law was passed to 7.7 days after passage. Yet employees who took sick leave, on average, used only 4 of the available 7.7 days. Even in businesses with a union presence, where workers have an average of 12.3 days available, they use on  average just 4.4 days of paid sick leave. Moreover, employers reported that, on average, a third of their employees used no paid sick days at all. This stands in direct opposition to the idea that workers would abuse the policy and take as many days off as possible, even when not sick. This suggests that employees view paid sick days as a form of insurance, to be used only as needed. Even when additional days are available to them, employees in reality only take the time off from work that they require when they are ill or need to care for a family member.

Thirteen states are currently considering or have recently considered paid sick leave legislation. Critics in all of these states have trotted out the canards that this policy is anti-business and imposes an undue burden on employers. But the Connecticut experience serves as an excellent indication that hand-wringing over possible abuse of the law is unfounded.

Via the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Sick and safe leave is a lifeline for workers

By Washington State Representative Roger Freeman


Representative Roger Freeman

Last year, I was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.  Here’s the thing you think about when you have stage four cancer — there is no stage five.

I was concerned. Not only for myself, but for my family.

Fighting cancer means treatment and surgery.  Lots of doctor’s appointments. Lots of time off work. As the sole breadwinner for my wife and two children I wondered, with all my time at the hospital and in recovery, how will we pay for basics like groceries and our mortgage? How will we not lose everything?

I am one of the lucky ones.  I have paid sick leave. I was able to make all my appointments.  I was able to put my energy and effort into fighting my illness, not worrying if my family would lose our home.

But there are one million Washingtonians who have no paid sick leave. When they get sick, they must choose between getting a paycheck and getting well.  If their child is sick they must choose between staying home to care for the child and making sure there is food on the table at the end of the month.

The state House passed HB 1313, allowing all workers to build up some safe and sick leave.

It is critical during times of health, for parents to be able to build up time sick leave in case a catastrophic event occurs. For me, having sick leave was a lifesaver.  My family had enough to worry about.  For them, my sick leave meant peace of mind.

HB 1313 also provides that employees can use built up leave for safety.  If anyone needs to go to court to obtain a protection order against an abuser, and attend subsequent court dates, the leave can be used for this.  No person should be made to choose between the safety and making a rent payment.

I understand the concerns of the business community.  I know providing benefits for employees are expensive.  That’s why I am pleased that HB 1313 bill has a sliding scale to protect small businesses.  The smallest are exempt, and the larger the company, the more safe and sick leave a worker would be able to accrue.  And in the end, businesses who invest in a healthy workforce will be more productive and more profitable.

HB 1313 is about creating the kind of kind of society which we want to live.  Do we want to live where someone diagnosed with cancer is forced to lose their job and their home in order to get well?  A society where a parent is forced to leave their sick child home alone?  Or, a society where government and business respect human dignity.

It’s time for the Senate to pass HB 1313, providing some safe and sick leave to all workers.  Please, call your Senator and ask him or her to support HB 1313.

Paid safe and sick leave is about protecting yourself and your family.  Paid sick and safe leave is about preserving humanity.

Via The Stand

Workers, working family advocates urge Senate to pass paid sick and safe leave

Yesterday, advocates from business, domestic violence prevention, senior citizen services, organized labor and workers from the retail, restaurant and grocery industry came together to urge the Washington State Senate to pass paid sick and safe leave.

1313 hearing


  • Monica Bryant, grocery worker
  • Traci Underwood, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Boris Popovic, Main Street Alliance of Washington

1313 hearing 2


  • Walt Bowen, Washington Senior Lobby
  • Susan Hedman, Macy’s worker
  • Adrienne Thompson, PTE Local 17
  • Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute

1313 hearing 3


  • Steve Segal, Local 443
  • Dionne Foster, Restaurant worker