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 MomsRising.org 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! http://action.momsrising.org/sign/HFA_2013/

Sources
1,2. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf
3. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-06-14/news/os-scott-signs-local-paid-sick-time-ban-20130614_1_florida-chamber-ballot-orange-county
4. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/10/24/2828431/pennsylvania-paid-sick-days-preemption/

Art by David Mansfield at A is for Effort

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