In Focus: Business Leadership and Job Quality

Jun 24, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

HuffPo Live Asks: What’s Fair for Working Families?

By Fatima Cervantes

Government officials, policy advocates, and everyday Americans talked fairness for working families during a HuffPost Live Q & A session that set the table for yesterday’s White House Summit on Working Families.

The inclusive conversation brought out rarely discussed features of the workplace. When asked about fair pay, Uncommon Goods Warehouse Supervisor Sha’Ron Burden explained that it helps “you feel more dedication to your teammates.” In Burden’s experience, an employee’s loyalty to a company is closely tied to the respect with which their employer treats them.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez discussed efforts to raise the minimum wage, protect home health care workers, and regulate overtime pay. Perez highlighted changes in the workforce, noting that while the number of working women and households with two working parents has increased, the U.S. has not responded with family-supporting policies. To address this concern,  he called for the passage of paid sick leave  and family medical leave laws, citing the success of state laws in Connecticut (sick leave) and California (family leave).

HuffPo Live host Alyona Minkovsk raised a common, if misguided, concern of paid leave opponents; they suggest paid-leave will cut into businesses’ bottom line and lead to higher prices for consumers. But despite the opposition from some businesses, campaigns for earned sick days and family leave are going strong. Secretary Perez highlighted numerous studies showing the benefits of paid leave.  “There are businesses that have voluntarily instituted paid-leave programs [and] have seen their stock prices actually go up,” he explained. “ And businesses who are the first in their area to do it see their stock prices rise even higher…” 

David Bolotsky, founder and CEO of UncommonGoods, provided insight on fair practices.  He said he has always paid employees higher rates than the minimum wage because it’s both the right thing to do and good for business. In fact, Bolotsky attributes his company’s consistent growth to his philosophy on fair pay. UncommonGoods is an on-record supporter of paid family leave law. And he’s not alone; many businesses are actively demonstrating their support.

Bolotsky added that when businesses fail to provide their employees living wages, it forces the government to intervene to protect workers. Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, echoed the point: the government should not be subsidizing poverty-level jobs.

 Perez recognized these changes would require persistence, but he seemed ready for the challenge. “Americans need a raise and we’re going to keep fighting.”

The Q & A session served as a good foundation for The White House Summit on Working Families which continued to explore these efforts to support working families’ relief from poverty and the strengthening of the middle class.

May 8, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

The FAMILY Act is Best for Babies

 By Lauren French

The first few months of children’s lives are crucial for their cognitive, social and emotional development. Social interactions with primary caregivers during these early stages are essential to shaping the architecture of babies’ brains. However, this critical bonding time is often limited by two important factors in parents’ lives: time and money. To ensure that mothers and fathers are able to provide the best possible care for their young children, members of Congress have introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. This law would allow workers to receive a portion of their pay for up to 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, as well as during their own serious illness or that of a close family member.   

MomsRising, ZERO TO THREE, and the National Partnership for Women & Families hosted a congressional briefing on Wednesday, which focused on the child development case for paid family and medical leave. The briefing was co-hosted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro, who introduced the FAMILY Act. This legislation would fill a big void – only 12 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave and few employers offer paid maternity or paternity leave. This means that parents are often forced by economic necessity to sacrifice critical bonding time with a new baby in order to return to work.

The relationship that forms between a parent and child in the first weeks of life is critical to healthy development. Babies who develop close relationships with their caregivers at a young age are better able to deal with adversity, which “can mean the difference between positive and negative outcomes for children throughout their lives.” This early bonding time also allows parents to develop into better mothers and fathers, as it takes time to establish the routines that will influence a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Paid family leave is also crucial to the health of young children. Time at home allows parents to take babies to well-child visits and immunization appointments. Furthermore, paid family leave allows mothers to breastfeed for longer, which reduces rates of childhood infection. Dr. David Bromberg of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has endorsed the FAMILY Act, pronounced that paid leave is “a right and a need that every child in this country should have.”

Many employers are also realizing that what’s good for families is good for business. At the congressional briefing, Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, owner of Bright Start Child Care and Preschool spoke in support of the legislation, stating, “As a business owner, I firmly believe that the FAMILY Act would be a tremendous help to small businesses like mine, and the dedicated staff that we employ.” Hilaire-Finn noted that by enabling her to provide paid family and medical leave without having to bear the full cost, the Act would allow her to compete with larger employers and retain high-quality staff. The FAMILY Act creates a social insurance system that is supported by small contributions from workers and employers.

Paid family and medical leave is long overdue in this country, and this legislation is a common-sense policy that would be good for babies, parents, and for the economy.


Little people lobby Congress to pass the FAMILY Act

Mar 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Working for Business: Effects of Connecticut's Earned Sick Leave Law

By Lauren French
The results are in: Connecticut’s earned sick days law has not hurt the state’s economy or taken a toll on individual businesses. These findings, which became public last week in a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the CUNY Murphy Institute, have given a big boost to other earned sick days campaigns gaining traction across the country.

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to establish a statewide sick days standard.  The law requires all businesses that employ 50 or more individuals, excluding manufacturers and nationally chartered nonprofits, to provide hourly workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to five days per year. The law also prohibits employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against employees who use paid leave.

The authors of the report conducted a survey of 251 employers covered by the law and did on-site interviews with managers. Despite business owners' fears when the legislation was proposed, the survey revealed that the paid sick leave law has had little or no impact on employers. In fact, most employers are now in favor of it. “A year and a half after the law went into effect,” the report says, “more than three-quarters of the employers responding to our survey indicated that they now supported the law.”

Most employers reported that they addressed employee sick leave absences using cost-free measures such as assigning work to other employees, swapping shifts, or putting the work on hold. As a result, almost half of employers reported that implementing the law had no effect at all on their bottom line. Another 19 percent reported minimal cost increases of less than two percent.

Claims that earned sick leave would be a “job killer” also proved to be unfounded. As the report notes, “in the period since it took effect, employment levels rose in key sectors covered by the law, such as hospitality and health services, while employment fell in manufacturing, which is exempt from the law.”

During a webinar hosted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Ruth Milkman, who co-authored the report with Eileen Appelbaum, said employer fears that the law would result in abuse were unfounded. “In fact, it seems clear that workers treat this as a form of insurance,” she noted. “They save it for when they need it.” The study found that 86 percent of employers observed no abuse.

Many employers also reported positive effects of the law, such as improved morale, increased productivity, and reduced spread of illness. In addition, as one human resource manager in the hotel industry noted, “the law ties into retention and turnover in a positive way.”

Lindsay Farrell of Connecticut Working Families said during the webinar that there has not been a business community presence during recent legislative attempts to weaken the law. “They don't care,” she explained. “They thought this would be terrible and it isn't.”

As this report demonstrates, paid sick leave laws have brought many positive effects to Connecticut employers without placing a burden on business. At a time when many states and localities are considering similar legislation, it is important that we separate fact from fiction and learn from Connecticut's experience. This report goes a long way toward ensuring businesses, the public, and policymakers have a clearer picture of the effects of earned sick time on our communities. 

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