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Lawmakers Unanimously Approve Country’s Most Robust Paid Sick Leave Law

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Bryce CovertThe Montgomery County, Maryland council voted unanimously to pass a paid sick leave bill on Tuesday, making the town the 23rd place in the country to enact such a requirement.

The law is one of the most robust to be passed at the city or state level so far. “The Montgomery County paid sick days laws is one of the strongest yet, and it should serve as a model for the state of Maryland and the nation,” said Charly Carter, director of Maryland Working Families.

Once it goes into effect in October 2016, around 90,000 people will get the right to a day off when they get sick that they currently don’t have. Employees at businesses with five or more workers will be able to earn up to seven days off a year, while those at companies with fewer workers can earn four paid days and three unpaid. Many current laws in other places exempt smaller businesses completely. Amendments to exempt people under the age of 18, people who work fewer than 16 hours a week, and smaller employers all failed.

Montgomery County’s leave can also be used for a wide variety of purposes beyond taking a day off for a worker’s own illness: to care for a sick family member, to deal with a public health emergency, or to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

A statewide bill in Maryland has been introduced but not yet passed, although it will be re-introduced next session, according to Working Matters, the group organizing support for paid sick leave in the state. While the country still doesn’t have a national requirement that employers offer their workers paid sick leave, unlike all other developed nations, many local governments have taken action on their own. With Montgomery County, four states and 19 cities have passed laws.


CREDIT: Andrew Breiner, ThinkProgress

Without a federal law, however, about 40 percent of America workers don’t have the ability to take paid time off when they or their family members get sick, the majority of them low-income workers who may not be able to afford an unpaid day. President Obama has called to change that, and Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills that would require all of the country’s to offer sick leave, but they haven’t moved forward.

While businesses often claim that they can’t afford to offer paid sick leave, the evidence from many of the places that have passed requirements is that the laws don’t represent an economic burden. In Connecticut, Jersey City, and Washington, D.C., employers don’t report that the laws have been costly or difficult to comply with, while some have seen benefits like decreased turnover and increased productivity. Meanwhile, job growth in Connecticut, San Francisco, and Seattle has been stronger after their laws took effect, and a majority of employers in many of these places now support the laws.

But the opposition has gained ground in other places. Ten states have passed laws that ban cities and counties from passing their own paid sick leave laws, and others are considering the same move.

This blog was originally posted on Think Progress on June 24, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Bryce Covert. Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.

California Labor Ruling Deals A Blow To Uber’s Strategy For Denying Drivers Benefits

Friday, June 19th, 2015

AlanPyke_108x108Uber must pay its drivers benefits, overtime, working expenses, and other standard compensation that the company has thus far avoided providing, the California Labor Commission has ruled.

The decision is not self-executing across the state and can only be directly applied in one specific driver’s case. But it signals to the company’s other employees that the body charged with adjudicating California labor law views Uber to be an employer with all the obligations that come with the label. Uber notes in a statement that the same commission had ruled the opposite way in a 2012 case, and that neither of those rulings would be binding in any other individual lawsuit over similar complaints by other drivers.

The ridesharing start-up, whose market value recently hit $50 billion, has relied upon paying drivers as though they were independent contractors rather than employees. Classifying a worker as a contractor negates most provisions of federal labor law, saving an employer thousands of dollars per year for each person they treat as a contractor.

If a company treats a contractor like an employee by exerting substantial control over day-to-day job activities, though, it risks being found guilty of misclassifying workers. Misclassification is a widespread problem, with complaints popping up everywhere from trucking to strip clubs to beauty parlors.

In California, Uber argued that its relationship with drivers is not controlling enough to constitute an employer-employee relationship, pointing out that they don’t set drivers’ hours or require a minimum number of trips in a shift. But California’s definition of the line between employment and contract work is primarily based on whether the worker is providing a service that’s integral to the main line of business of the company paying her. Labor commission lawyers examined Uber’s policies for drivers and overall business model and found the company’s argument weak.

“Defendants hold themselves out as nothing more than a neutral technological platform, designed simply to enable drivers and passengers to transact the business of transportation. The reality, however, is that defendants are involved in every aspect of the operation,” the commission ruled. By vetting would-be drivers, requiring them to register their vehicles with Uber, and terminating them if their approval ratings dip too low, the state found, Uber positioned itself as an employer rather than a non-controlling party to a contract.

The case that generated the ruling will only cost Uber about $4,000 in reimbursement payments to a driver named Barbara Ann Berwick. But its consequences could be much grander. If it cannot successfully appeal the finding, it will have to choose between fielding further individual lawsuits or reclassifying all its California drivers as regular employees to pre-empt the suits. That means paying unemployment insurance and other payroll taxes that aren’t triggered for contractors, as well as potentially being subject to overtime rules and made to reimburse drivers for work expenses like gas, tolls, and some traffic tickets.

Any multi-billion-dollar corporation should theoretically be able to absorb such costs. But they threaten to turn Uber into a much smaller-margin enterprise, one more akin to the traditional taxi company business model that the firm has made so much money disrupting. And because Uber’s market value is a fluid, on-paper number that depends on investor confidence and market analyst’s reading of the economic tea leaves, the California ruling could lead to some shrinkage in the car service’s worth and ability to raise private funds.

The ruling isn’t the end of the story, either. There are other civil cases outstanding in California and elsewhere that touch on similar issues and could be decided differently. And the sheer variety of different driver experiences, from people who drive a few hours a week for supplementary income to those who log long hours in vehicles leased from the company itself, suggests that it’s hard to pin down the entire category of workers with either the “employee” or “contractor” label that the law provides.

This blog was originally posted on Think Progress on June 17, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Alan Pyke. Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and PoliticalCorrection.org. He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites.

Broward Is Second Florida County to Address Wage Theft

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Kenneth Quinnell

This week, Broward County—one of the most populous counties in South Florida—became the second county in the state to pass a local wage theft ordinance, joining Miami-Dade County. In a 7-2 vote, the Board of County Commissioners voted to create the new law to deal with a significant and growing problem in Florida. Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid overtime, not paid at least the minimum wage, are forced to work off the clock or are not paid at all for work they have completed.

“I was at the meeting yesterday asking commissioners to vote yes for the ordinance, speaking on behalf of my close friends who are victims of wage theft in our county and haven’t been able to recover their wages after months of effort,” says Maria Isabel Fernandez, a resident of Dania Beach in Broward County. “I was thrilled when the ordinance passed! It may be too late for my friends, but it will help other people like them in the future who will now have the possibility of recovering the salaries they earned through their work without having to hire a lawyer and wait months without any income.”

Florida is considered one of the worst states in the country for wage theft, and Broward County is the third worst county in the state. Nearly 5,000 wage theft cases have been reported in Broward in the past three years, totaling more than $2 million in back wages. More than $28 million in unpaid wages have been recovered in Florida. Miami-Dade created a similar ordinance in 2010 and has recovered more than half a million dollars in unpaid wages in that county alone.

Several factors contribute to the problem. Florida does not have a state-level Department of Labor, has a high percentage of workers who are not covered by federal wage and hour laws and has a legislature that is openly hostile to wage theft laws, so much so that it recently tried to ban such laws at the local level.

Cynthia Hernandez of the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University says:

Policymakers need to consider the ramifications of Florida becoming a glaring example of a state that tolerates and even encourages wage violations. Broward County and Miami-Dade’s wage theft ordinances are examples of good government policy addressing this growing issue. These ordinances are critical to maintaining a fairly competitive business environment so critical to Florida’s economy.

Alachua County, where Gainesville and the University of Florida reside, is considering becoming the third county to pass a wage theft ordinance. For more information or to report wage theft in Florida, contact the Florida Wage Theft Task Force.

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO NOW on Monday, October 29, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is is senior writer for AFL-CIO. He is originally from Florida and is the father of three sons. He can be reached at [email protected]

What Workers Really Fear on the Job

Friday, August 31st, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

What’s your biggest worry about your job?

Some 40 percent of America’s workers say they fear their benefits will be reduced in the near future, according to Gallup’s annual Work and Education poll released today. That compares with 28 percent who are afraid their wages will be cut back and 28 percent who fear they will be laid off, a percentage that’s still high compared with pre-recession levels. (Click on chart to enlarge.) In addition, 26 percent fear their hours will be cut back.

The polls found U.S. workers with less formal education are more likely than those with greater educational attainment to worry about losing their job or having their pay or benefits reduced. Some 34 percent of college non-graduates say they are worried about being laid off, compared with 18 percent of college graduates.

So what do these new data mean?

American workers feel secure about their employment situation, even during one of the slower economic times in U.S. history—perhaps
helping to maintain consumer spending enough to prevent a second recession.

U.S. workers feel their benefits are most at risk, which may be the first place employers seek to cut back during difficult economic times. And workers may be willing to accept such cuts over more severe measures like pay cuts or layoffs.

When you depend upon your employer to provide essentials like health care, losing a job means a lot more than lost wages. Unions are the best defense against the billionaire-backed Romney/Ryan politicos who seek to do what America’s workers fear most: cut benefits, slash jobs and squeeze wages.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 22, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Looking for a Good Job? Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Michelle ChenIf you think your job stinks, you’re not alone. And if you’re still looking for a decent job, don’t expect to find one anytime soon, or ever.

A new analysis of job quality, assessing various measures of benefits and wages, confirms what many of us already suspected: Good jobs are vanishing from the United States, with global trade and social disinvestment leaving workers stranded on a barren economic landscape.

The report, published by John Schmitt and Janelle Jones from the Center for Economic and Policy Reseach (CEPR), shows that the downward spiral began long before the recent economic crisis. It notes that since 1979, the “good job” (one that “pays at least $18.50 an hour, has employer provided health insurance, and some kind of retirement plan”) has become an endangered species:

[T]he economy has lost about one-third (28 to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs. The data show only minor differences between 2007, before the Great Recession began, and 2010, the low point for the labor market.

In 2010, “less than one-fourth (24.6 percent) of the workforce” possessed those precious good jobs. And the clincher is this downturn is beginning to look like a sad plateau:

The deterioration in the economy’s ability to generate good jobs reflects long-run changes in the U.S. economy, not short-run factors related to the recession or recent economic policy.

While workers around the world have witnessed massive economic volatility in the recent boom-bust cycles, food crises and political upheavals, the trend line of labor hardship holds steady. The societal impacts of unemployment crises parallel the effect of long-term effects on individual workers, especially young ones–a self-perpetuating sense of despair and isolation, and perhaps entrenched, long-term suffering.

The report’s long-term prognosis undercuts the historically entrenched national mythology of upward mobility. Alan Barber, a spokesperson for CEPR, tells In These Times via email:

It may come as a surprise or at least run against logic to some readers because even though the workforce is better educated and older, one would expect that more people have good job. Conventional wisdom holds that if a person goes to college and gets a degree they will get better jobs. It also holds that the longer you are in the workforce the better your prospects for getting a good job. But as the report shows this is not the case.

The divergence between the American Dream and American reality has widened as neoliberal policies have assaulted workers under the guise of promoting “personal responsibility.” The belief that hard work pays off has been betrayed by the degradation of public trusts like education and health care, while mortgage and student debt crises and the decline of union representation, hollow out communities from within.

The erosion of public services and social programs is nothing new, but the flip side of a shrinking safety net–a crumbling labor market–pushes self-sufficiency even further out of reach for millions.

The vanishing promise of social mobility may have an even more severe impact across generations. According to the Pew Economic Mobility project’s report on intergenerational prosperity:

  • Eighty-four percent of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents did.
  • Those born at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to stay there as adults. More than 40 percent of Americans raised in the bottom quintile of the family income ladder remain stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle.
  • African Americans are more likely to be stuck at the bottom and fall from the middle of the economic ladder across a generation.

So apparently the traditional rungs by which earlier generations climbed the class ladder–a bachelor’s degree, a first home, “loyalty” to a single company–are now shakier than ever. Pew researchers uncovered a cleft in mobility over time: in terms of “relative” mobility, people tend to do a bit better than their parents. But the gains often fail to add up to “absolute” mobility, which means people don’t ascend to a significantly better income bracket. Many are actually falling behind relative to the rest of the economy. About 16 percent are “downwardly mobile,” staying put or falling in the class hierarchy. Overall, some 20 percent “make more money than their parents did, but have actually fallen to a lower rung of the income ladder.”

The withering of the middle class is deeply skewed by race, with black and white households moving ahead at vastly different rates. According to Pew, “only 23 percent of blacks raised in the middle exceed their parents’ wealth compared with 56 percent of whites.”

So what’s left for workers who not only face a lifetime of economic hopelessness, but also can’t even give their kids the hope of achieving something more? The CEPR report doesn’t offer policy prescriptions, but does note that the shrinking share of good jobs in the U.S. workforce is not an inevitability. The research connects the decline in quality jobs to the dismantling of the economic supports that make work fair and rewarding, including union power and industry regulations. On a macro level:

the decline in the economy’s ability to create good jobs is related to a deterioration in the bargaining power of workers, especially those at the middle and the bottom of the income scale. The main cause of the loss of bargaining power is the large-scale restructuring of the labor market that began at the end of the 1970s and continues to the present.

The public sector has suffered under privatization, and once-solid middle-class jobs have been lost to the tides of global commerce. Immigrants meanwhile have been absorbed into a precarious low-wage workforce that feeds raging inequality. And meanwhile, political elites are finding new and creative ways to siphon more resources away from the public and subsidize predatory corporate wealth.

The deficit in good jobs can’t be simply chalked up to globalization or a decline in American workers’ “competitiveness.” It’s a reflection of a deficit in power at the bottom, and a surplus of greed at the top.

This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on August 24, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Michelle Chen work has appeared in AirAmerica, Extra!, Colorlines and Alternet, along with her self-published zine, cain. She is a regular contributor to In These Times’ workers’ rights blog, Working In These Times, and is a member of the In These Times Board of Editors. She also blogs at Colorlines.com. She can be reached at michellechen @ inthesetimes.com.

Workers are worried about having their benefits cut. With good reason.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Laura Clawson

Americans’ fears about having their benefits or wages reduced, being laid off, or having work hours cut back shot up in 2009, and haven’t fallen back to pre-2009 levels since, a Gallup poll finds. Benefit cuts lead the list of worries, with 40 percent fearful about that, while wage cuts and layoffs follow at 28 percent.

It’s no wonder that fears about benefit cuts have consistently topped responses to this question since the first time Gallup asked it in 1997. You only have to look at any story about a union’s contract negotiations—companies are overwhelmingly demanding cuts to health insurance and pensions, and they didn’t come for union members’ health insurance and pensions first. Companies worked their way methodically through, cutting benefits to the most vulnerable workers first, selling middle-class professionals on the idea that 401(k) plans would make them investor-class masters of the universe and make pensions obsolete and undesirable.

Union members’ benefits only started getting hit after enough other people’s benefits had been cut that companies could play divide-and-conquer, stoking resentment against workers who still had good benefits, promoting the question “why does my neighbor have a pension when I don’t?” rather than “why did my boss take my pension?” And even as too many people still fall prey to that corporate campaign of division, it may be starting to sink in that once pensions are gone for everyone in the 99 percent, and once even people who have employer-provided health care are paying a bigger chunk of the costs every year until they can’t afford it at all, businesses are coming for something else next. So, yeah. American workers should be worried about benefits. And they should be doing something about that worry—voting, organizing, taking to the fucking streets—before there are no more benefits to be worried about.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on August 22, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

NASA Firefighters Protest Steep Cuts

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

mike elkThis week, photos of NASA engineers joyously celebrating their successful Mars rover mission went viral on the Internet. However, for another set of NASA workers–the firefighters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida–there has been little joy in the face of imminent slashes to their retirement benefits by NASA contractor G4S.

Last year, G4S, the third largest employer in the world (and the troubled provider of security for the London Olympics), took over the contract to provide firefighting services at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. G4S continued to employ the 90 firefighters who worked there but demanded contract concessions. For the last year the firefighters have been working under the terms of their previous contract, as negotiated by their union, Transport Workers Union Local 525. But now that the year is coming to an end, G4S is pushing for steep cuts.

Upon taking over the contracts last November, G4S immediately froze the firefighters’ pensions and converted them from a defined pension plan to a 401(k). Now, in negotiations with workers, G4S wants to double workers’ out-of-pocket medical expenses. The company also proposes an 80 percent reduction in its contributions to the firefighters’ retirement plan, forcing workers to pay more out of their own paychecks. The company’s new retirement scheme would cut workers’ retirement income by a minimum of 30 percent, and possibly more for workers who have been there fewer years. Retirement is an important issue for firefighters, who typically retire in their early 50s because of their physically demanding jobs.

“Firemen are walking off [the job] because they are disgusted by [the benefit cuts]. They are finding jobs in other places. Firemen go to work where they know there is a decent wage and they can retire,” says TWU Local 525 President Kevin Smith. “Now the company is giving them such a terrible package that there is no way they can retire like normal firefighters across the country.”

G4S refused to respond to interview requests, saying it could not comment on ongoing negotiations “other than to say that we continue to negotiate with the Transport Workers Union to work towards a successful resolution.“

However, according to TWU Local 525, G4S has said at the bargaining table that the cuts are necessary in order for them to make a profit on the contract, since they can’t get additional money from NASA.“In a lot of contracts, you have a vehicle to get equitable adjustments to meet contract costs. This is a fixed price contract and there is no way to get an adjustment,” explains TWU Local 525 President Kevin Smith.

However, NASA has refused to get involved in the negotiations, saying that legally they cannot do so as a neutral third party.

“I am upset with NASA,” says Smith. “They accepted the bid, so they are responsible for it, but they have no way to fix it. They have a fault with no remedy.”

For now, workers are stepping up their militancy in an attempt to engage NASA. The union firefighters are picketing Kennedy Space Center twice a day, five days a week, demanding simply to maintain the contract they currently have.

“If we don’t stand up to them and fight them, all the other shops are coming through behind us on negotiations,“ says David McGaha, a paramedic and firefighter. “Before you know we are going to be working for minimum wage with no benefits.”

Despite the ongoing picketing, Smith remains pessimistic that the union by itself can successfully pressure NASA to clean up the mess.

“I am certainly not a big enough person to put pressure on NASA,” says Smith. “I have been picketing them for three years and I’m getting nowhere. It’s going to take a Senator or President Obama to step up.”

This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on August 8, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at [email protected]

Decline of Good Jobs Tied to Workers’ Decreased Bargaining Power

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

Many U.S. workers don’t have jobs—nearly 13 million. Less known, however, is that many more don’t have good jobs—fewer than one-quarter of America’s workforce, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). The center defines a good job as one that pays at least $18.50 an hour, or $37,000 per year, equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979. A good job also includes employer-provided health insurance and a retirement plan (click on chart at left to expand).

The lack of available good jobs is not new. As CEPR finds, compared with 1979, the U.S. economy has lost about one-third (28 percent to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs.

But why?

The report, “Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?” outlines how the decline in the economy’s ability to produce good jobs is directly related workers’ declining bargaining power. The study points to the fall in the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage, the decline in union representation, trade deals, high unemployment and other factors that reduce the bargaining power of workers relative to their employers.

“The standard explanation for this loss of the economy’s ability to create good jobs is that most workers skills have not kept up with the pace of technological change,” says John Schmitt, senior economist at CEPR and one of the report’s co-authors.

But it is hard to reconcile that view with the fact that even workers with a college degree are less likely to have a good job now than at the end of the 1970s.

Further, according to the report, more than one-third of U.S. workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from just one-fifth in 1979.

Given that older and better-educated workers generally receive higher pay and better benefits, we would have expected the share of “good jobs” in the economy to have increased in line with improvements in the quality of workforce. Instead, the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy has actually fallen.

Get the full report here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 1, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Gets It Right: ‘The United States Is In The Dark Ages When It Comes To Maternity Leave’

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Image: Pat GarofaloFox News’ Megyn Kelly returned to work yesterday after three months of maternity leave, and during her first show, she pummeled shock radio host Mike Gallagher, who back in May called Kelly’s maternity leave “a racket” that was “unbelievable.” Kelly not only took Gallagher to task for poo-pooing the notion that women should be able to stay home with their newborns, but she also pointed out that the U.S. is in “the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave,” as it is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require employers to give new mothers paid time off: megynkelly0809

KELLY: What a moronic thing to say…Is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?

GALLAGHER: Well, do men get maternity leave? I can’t believe I’m asking you this, because you’re just going to kill me.

KELLY: Guess what honey? Yes, they do. It’s called the Family Medical Leave Act. If men would like to take three months off to take care of their newborn baby, they can. […] Just in case you didn’t know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. Now I happen to work for a nice employer that gave me paid leave. But the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t require paid leave. If anything, the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave. And what is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby for nine months, that you don’t think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place, hmm?…You can’t answer the question because there is no answer, my friend.

Watch it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5BfSBxk0FMc

Kelly is spot-on. As the Project on Global Working families found during a survey of 173 countries, the U.S. is in some bad company when it comes to paid maternity leave:

Out of 173 countries studied, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 3 other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

The U.S. hasn’t required paid maternity leave even though such leave results in “a decrease of complications and recovery time for the mother and [a decrease in] the risk of allergies, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome for the child.” So it seems that even a Fox News host can be sensible when personally faced with the implications of government policy.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on August 9, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

Wisconsin Rally for Workers Grows to 30,000

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Image: Mike HallA massive protest against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers entered its second day in Madison with as many as 30,000 people, according to some estimates. More demonstrations are expected tomorrow.

Also for more information and to help support Wisconsin workers, visit the Facebook page of Protect Wisconsin Families here.

AFL-CIO Field Communications staff member Mike Uehlein sends us the latest report on today’s actions. We also have new video (above) from  Tuesday’s demonstrations.


Video of the Rally

In a continuing show of support for public workers, huge crowds arrived in Madison today to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin families. A diverse collection of working men and women, students, community members and religious groups marched around the Capitol building.

Despite the practice of hearing testimony from any Wisconsinite who wishes to speak, the Joint Committee on Finance cut off public debate late last night. So today at the demonstration, a public citizen’s forum was offered for people denied the ability to speak at the Joint Committee hearing yesterday.

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt told the crowd, “It is up to us to fight for the right of workers to have a collective voice on the job.”

We will not stand by and watch those rights be taken away. For every person here today, there are 100 more who could not make it and we stand with them. This proposal is too extreme. No one should be taking away our rights as workers and our rights as Americans.

Speaking to the huge sea of protesters, Steve Heimsness, treasurer of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, says:

Politicians are trying to take away workers’ union rights in Wisconsin. We need representatives to listen to the thousands of workers here today and stop this bill. We have to stop this now.

Today’s continuing protests signal strong disapproval of the provisions in the budget measure. As a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial said Monday, this “bill is about rights, not benefits.” The protests on the Capitol ground reflected this, with many carrying signs saying, “Stop the Attack on Working Families.”

Walker has urged the legislature to fast track the proposal and the committee could vote later today or tonight, with final legislative action by the end of the week. Says Milwaukee bus driver James Macon:

This bill is too extreme to push through in four days. We have worked with both Democratic and Republican governors before and we can do that again.

This Blog originally appeared in http://blog.aflcio.org/ on February 16, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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