Ted Cruz to working mother: Don’t push it on paid family leave

hanauer quote[Via Civic Skunk Works] Here at Civic Skunk Works, we’ve spent a quite a bit of time pointing out that trickle-down economics has never been anything more than an intimidation tactic masquerading as an economic theory. For decades, politicians (from both parties) and businesses have been employing this tactic in order to scare workers into paralysis. Think about the claims which trickle-down proponents have repeated over and over again:

  • “If you raise the minimum wage, jobs will be lost.”
  • “If you tax the wealthy, jobs will be lost.”
  • “If regulation of the powerful goes up, jobs will be lost.

In short, don’t push it, buddy.

And this Monday, Ted Cruz provided a perfect illustration of this bullying tactic. The Texas senator was asked by a mother of four “what he would do about the current lack of federally mandated paid family leave.” A very good question on a very important subject which affects all working Americans. According to Think Progress, Cruz callously replied:

Giving away free stuff is very easy for politicians to do, but the simplest rule of economics is TANSTAAFL — there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Anything a politician gives you, he must first take from you. And so if you have the federal government mandate paid medical leave,what that ends up doing is driving up the cost of labor for low-income workers.

What he’s saying is: don’t ask for too much or you’ll be priced out of a job. And just in case this mother of four missed the veiled threat, he hammers the point home when he adds, “And by the way, if you get fired or laid off, not only do you not get paid family leave but you don’t get a paycheck either.”

Do you see how slimy this strategy is? Do you see how strong-handed this approach is? Do you see how they are striking fear and doubt into the minds of American workers?

And this isn’t anything new. This is how Republicans and businesses have been framing workplace benefits for a very long time. They’ve perpetually tried to scare the American worker by threatening to cut their jobs if they ever asked for too much. (What they define as “too much” has been ever-changing. Forty years ago occupational health and safety fit under such a category, today it’s paid leave, tomorrow it may be vacation time.) In economically anxious times they know this intimidation tactic often works. Why take a chance and try to push for better benefits if your job is already in the balance?

The truth is paid family leave is actually good for businesses, the worker, and society in general. For businesses specifically paid leave improves worker retention, increases worker productivity, and improves employee loyalty and morale. How do we know this? Well, for one, paid family leave insurance programs “are already working well in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.” That’s right – paid leave already exists in the three states and none of those state economies has nosedived into economic catastrophe. As Think Progresshighlights:

Evidence from the first two states shows that [paid family leave programs] haven’t hurt employers. About 90 percent of California businesses say that it either had a positive impact or none on profitability, employee performance, and productivity, while it helped reduce turnover, saving them an estimated $89 million each year. Themajority of New Jersey businesses surveyed also said that it hasn’t hurt their finances and some saw a benefit.

The job-killing dystopia which Ted Cruz foreshadowed to the mother of four is simply a trick. Thankfully, we know why politicians like Cruz are continuing to sell this scam to the American worker: because if he can get workers to believe this scary tale, big businesses and their politicians win.

How to Bridge That Stubborn Pay Gap

20 dollar bills

Photo: Nic McPhee via Flickr Creative Commons

When the comedian Ricky Gervais joked that he was paid the same to host the Golden Globes as the actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — combined — his barbed humor most likely resonated in many workplaces.

More than a half-century after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, the gender pay gap is still with us. Women earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the Census Bureau.

That statistic is based on the median salaries of full-time workers, not men and women doing the same jobs, but other data show that the gap occurs in a broad range of occupations. Women who are surgeons earn 71 percent of what men earn, while food preparers earn 87 percent, according to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist.

The gap cannot be entirely explained by anything economists can measure— workers’ education and experience, the jobs they choose, the hours they work or the time they take off. That leaves other factors that are hard to quantify, like discrimination or women’s perception of the choices available to them.

So what might work to close the gap? Social scientists and policy makers have some ideas, as do companies that have been trying to combat the problem in their work forces.

Full story: New York Times »

San Francisco Supervisor Calls For Fully Paid Parental Leave

baby feet

Photo: Jessica Major via Flickr Creative Commons

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener on Wednesday announced legislation that would make San Francisco the first city in the country to require companies to provide fully paid parental leave to employees.

While state law allows employees to get up to 55 percent of their wages for six weeks through disability payments, an ordinance Wiener plans to introduce later this month would require San Francisco employers to pay the remaining 45 percent.

The legislation, announced Wednesday with the support of the women’s rights organization Equal Rights Advocates, would apply to both mothers and fathers working for companies with 20 or more employees.

Full story: CBS SF Bay Area »

Congratulations on paid sick and safe leave, Spokane!

spokane-sick-and-safe-leave-300x300On January 11, 2016, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance assuring most people working in the city the right to earn paid sick and safe leave starting next year.  The Council voted 6 to 1 for the ordinance.

At the start of Monday evening’s 5 ½ hour long council meeting, the policy on the table provided for only three days of paid sick time. After listening to testimony from over 50 people – the overwhelming majority of them favoring a universal policy of at least five days, the Council amended the proposal. The ordinance as passed allows workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 5 days in companies with 10 or more employees, and up to 3 days in smaller firms. Paid leave can be used for the health needs of the worker or a family member, bereavement, and to deal with the consequences of domestic violence or sexual assault.

The Spokane Alliance led the Earned Sick and Safe Time Spokane Coalition in a remarkable two-year organizing effort that included a listening tour with over 50 small businesses and nonprofits, multiple community forums, and collecting stories of impacted workers. They coordinated testimony and turnout at hearings and events, submission of letters to the editor and op-eds, and the delivery of over 1,000 public comments to Council members.

Spokane is the first jurisdiction in 2016 to pass a paid sick days law. In 2015, Tacoma was first out of the gate. Four states and more than 20 U.S. cities, including Seattle, SeaTac, and Portland, now have sick leave laws in place.

More:

Testimony of Marilyn Watkins, EOI Policy Director »

Testimony of Kira Lewis, RN, BSN »

It’s Time to Get Real About Work/Life Balance. It’s 2016.

Stormtrooper sisyphus

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr Creative Commons

When we talk about flexible work, what image comes to mind? It’s that same dang woman with the 1980s shoulder pads and grocery cart, right? Yet let’s get real: Ellen Galinsky, head of The Families and Work Institute, told me that their research shows that men actually work more flexible schedules than women do. Men even telecommute more than women. Why? Because more men are in positions of power. Affinity bias, or the Old Boys Network, ensures that men stay in those positions of power. And when you have power, you can control your time.

So let’s stop talking about how women lack ambition, or that they don’t have the drive—or the capability—to get to the corner office. Let’s get real: It’s time to carve different paths to the top, to re-design the way we work for everyone, even in the corner office, to reward focus, not multi-tasking, to value effectiveness, performance, and results, and not wear our long hours in the office like a badge of honor.

I was talking recently with Brad Harrington, director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family who has pioneered much of the research on the evolving roles of men and fatherhood. We were lamenting how, when you say “work-life,” or “work-family,” people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Up rises the specter of that woman in a power business suit, wearing heels and wielding a shopping cart. We wondered if what we needed to grab people’s attention, and convince them how central these issues are, is new language.

But I’ve come to see that it’s not vocabulary that needs changing. It’s our thinking. That these issues have languished so long on the mommy track/women’s initiative backwater is nothing short of a colossal failure of imagination. Now it’s up to all of us to get real, to think bigger, and begin to make the real changes we all need in order to live a good life not in 2102, but in 2016.

Full story: Pacific Standard »

When the Boss Says, ‘Don’t Tell Your Coworkers How Much You Get Paid’

Top_secretGag rules — company policies that prohibit employees from discussing their salaries with each other — thrive in workplaces across the country. In a report updated this year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about half of American employees in all sectors are either explicitly prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their coworkers. In the private sector, the number is higher, at 61 percent.

Last fall, I became a barista in a small, “socially responsible” coffee company. A few months later, I got a temporary paralegal position at one of the world’s biggest multinational, corporate law firms.

The two companies had little in common, but both told me one thing: Don’t talk to your coworkers about your pay.

Read more: The Atlantic »

Report: Gender Wage Gap Shrinks Because Men Earn Less

A new report, “Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond,” finds that in 1979, median hourly earnings for women were 62.7 percent of men’s hourly wages. That gap narrowed in the two decades that followed, but since 2000 it has hovered in the 80 percent rage. In 2014, women’s median hourly earnings were 82.9 percent of men’s. The wage gap is more severe for women of color, the report found. On average, white female workers make 81.8 percent of a man’s hourly wage, compared to 65.1 percent for black women and 58.9 percent for Hispanic women.

Read more: The American Prospect »