Monday, March 30, 2009

For Work-Family Flexibility, the Time is Now

By Linda Meric

In the workplace of the future, the words "work" and "family" will be connected by more than the obligatory hyphen.

In the workplace of the future, workers who are sick will have paid sick days so they can stay home for a day or two and take care of themselves - without fearing they will lose a day's pay, or worse, their jobs.

In the workplace of the future, working parents won't have to miss their child's big part in the school play or forfeit the chance for an important parent-teacher conference -- they'll have parental leave that will allow them to both do their jobs AND be good parents by being involved in their children's school activities.

In the workplace of the future, more workers will be able to utilize the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act for more reasons - and it will be affordable for them.

In the future, work-family flexibility will be more than something that we're working toward - it will be a reality.

Why is it important? Consider the case of Sherry Johnson, a Milwaukee grandmother and career data entry operator. Sherry began to have problems with her eyes and her doctor recommended eye surgery. She informed her employer, underwent the surgery, and let her employer know that she would have to take time to recover. After the recovery period, she called her employer again to inform them that she was ready to return to work. But rather than welcoming her back, she was fired. Her supervisor said it was because she took the time off for the surgery. Sherry tells her story (view it online here) because she wants her grandchildren to grow up in a future world where families are truly respected and all people are treated with dignity.

What happened to her is appalling. Even more appalling are these statistics: more than 57 million workers do not have a single paid sick day in which to take care of themselves in times of illness and more than 100 million workers don't have a paid sick day in which they can stay home and care for a sick child. Those least likely to have paid sick days are those who can least afford to lose their jobs: working women who head households and struggle mightily to make the dual demands of work and home work for both their employers and their families.

But pushing toward a future where flexible work-family policy is more than just a dream is about more than economic justice for women and their families. It's also a matter of public health, because child care, nursing home, restaurant and other workers who must go to work sick can make the rest of us sick. It's also a business issue because research has shown that those workplaces that offer flexibility to their workers are more profitable and have employees who are more productive. For all those reasons, paid sick days must be among the key policies that set the tone for the workplace of the future.

What are we doing to build a future of economic justice?

Paid sick days policies have already been enacted in San Francisco and the District of Columbia. And, this past November, the Milwaukee Chapter of 9to5, National Association of Working Women led the campaign that won paid sick days for every worker in the city of Milwaukee. Nearly 70 percent of the voters said "yes" to the paid sick days referendum but now the business community has decided to fight the voice of the people. Now, we'll have to wait ‘til at least May for a judge to uphold the voice of the people and the democratic process. We are confident that the paid sick days vote will stand.

The broad coalition that joined with 9to5 to win paid sick days has recommitted to the ideals of the workplace of the future. Activists in North Carolina, Massachusetts and California continue to fight toward a future where every worker has the right to take care of themselves and their families without jeopardizing their jobs. 9to5 members across the country are sharing their personal experiences through letters and meetings with elected officials and the media, speaking to other groups, and participating in local coalition activities that push toward a future reality. The Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would guarantee that every worker has paid sick days, is on the table and more important than ever. Contact your US Senators NOW and urge them to support the HFA.

How long will we wait for a future with work-family flexibility?

We who believe in economic justice believe the time is NOW. To join with us, call our the 9to5 Helpline at 1-800-522-0925, email us at, or visit our website, for more ideas.

Meric is Executive Director, 9to5, National Association of Working Women

This blog post was originally seen on as part of fem2.0's blog carnival about women and work. View the original entry here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Our Vote, Our Voice!

I recently spent the afternoon with a fellow 9to5 member and activist on the streets of Atlanta near the Capitol, talking to women (and some men!) about 9to5 and the policies we support. I have to admit, as we approached women we did not know, I was nervous! I expected that people would not be receptive and tell me they don’t have the time, but as we talked about the Parent Protection Act, paid sick days, and the Healthy Families Act, we discovered that many women agree with our policies. They are frustrated with the cost of childcare, the lack of health coverage for themselves and their families, and how difficult it has been to find a job.

We met very little opposition, but a few women said they already had paid sick leave and that our issues don’t pertain to them. They are fortunate to benefit from their company policies, but many don’t offer paid sick time or even a few hours to attend a school conference or doctor’s appointment. People assume that we all have the same work privileges but we don’t. It is up to our companies to decide, which is why we support statewide or federal policies. Sometimes a woman has to choose between a sick child and her job and it happens more often than we would like to admit.

Every day we wander the streets, unaware of the concerns and frustrations we share with the strangers we pass. Many of us forget that others love their children and want the very best for them, just as we do. Or like them, we spent down to the last dollar of our last paycheck, waiting impatiently for payday to help cover our waiting expenses. Or that a day that is free of worry or stress may not be shared by a neighbor or friend - that even though we might be doing well, others aren’t.

We asked these women to show support by signing purple cards that state "Our Vote, Our Voice!", which we share with our elected officials. We got 31 cards signed that day, but more important, my friend and I were able to connect with other women with whom we normally would not have spoken to. Next time you are waiting in a line and or riding the train, instead of ignoring the person next to you, strike up a conversation and find out just how similar you may be. Better yet, call our office at 404-227-0037 and make plans to pick up your own set of purple cards. It will give you a reason to reach out to others and show our elected officials that we care in numbers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ask the President...

Have you ever wished that the president would answer your personal questions at a press conference? Through the "Ask the President" project, he just might!

On the project's website, you can upload a video of your question or type it out (on the "submit an entry" page). Then, people who view the site can vote on their favorite questions. One of the most popular questions will be asked at every press conference the president holds! So, if you'd like to ask President Obama a question, make sure to send an email to all of your friends to vote for it, then wait to see if it gets answered.

The "Ask the President" Project is sponsored by the Nation, the Washington Times, and the Personal Democracy Forum.

Click the link below to get started.

What are you waiting for? Ask the President your questions!

And let us know if we need to vote for your submissions online!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Good Side of the Opposite Side

I recently had an opportunity to put the lobby training provided by the Women in the Halls to work by writing a letter to the representative in my district. The second part to writing the letter was making the delivery. To my own surprise I was able to do more than deliver I was able to speak with my representative along with another activist. We were both able to share our views and be listened to by Representative Pat Dooley on getting House Bill 37 (The Parent Protection Act) passed.

Her advice was more than what I expected to receive. She discussed how the bill affected everyone and that it wasn’t for us to seek help from one political party. Our next steps are to visit a few republicans and express why this bill is so important. My representative provided us with the motivation to continue to rally for the Parent Protection Act.

-- by 9to5 member Jackie Lunsford

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Celebrate Women's History Month!

In the United States, March is Women's History Month. This month, Americans celebrate women, everything we've accomplished, and the work we still have to do. This wasn't just an excuse for the Atlanta 9to5 office to be closed last week in honor of International Women's Day... at events nationwide, women are being honored, celebrated, and acknowledged for their good works!

In honor of this month, President Obama last week created a White House Panel on Women and Girls. This panel will work with every cabinet agency and department of the government to ensure that women have access to the same opportunities as men. In his official statements about the panel's creation, President Obama made several references to the many working women who have touched his life -- his grandmother, his mother, and his wife, Michelle -- as well as his desire to make the world a better place for working women before his daughters, Malia and Sasha, enter the workforce. President Obama's personal advisor, Valerie Jarrett (who is herself a single mother), will head the White House Panel on Women and Girls.

The San Francisco Chronicle had a great article about the White House Council on Women and Girls. Read it here.

  • How do you feel about President Obama's actions?
  • What do you hope this council will accomplish?
  • What further action steps do you think he should take to protect the interests of women and girls?

Friday, March 13, 2009

On March 4th, the Georgia Minimum Wage Coalition was able to increase awareness of HB 290, raising the state minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to the federal level at the Women in the Halls/By the People lobby event and expanding coverage to more employees in the state. Sponsored by several progressive organizations, the event provided training as to how to talk to your legislator while the GA Minimum Wage Coalition supplied the information about increasing the state minimum wage.

We had a great turnout and thank all of our participants! Because we had constituents from several key districts in the Georgia, we were able to talk with Representatives Mike Coan (R-Dist. 101), Clay Cox (R- Dist. 102), Rahn Mayo (D- Dist. 91), Mary Margaret Oliver (D- Dist. 83), and Robbin Shipp (D- Dist. 58). Key to these meetings were our discussions with Rep. Coan, who heads the House Industrial Relations Committee. HB 290 is in his committee, but for the second straight year, he has not felt that the bill was important enough to bring to a committee hearing.

While Rep. Coan would not give us a direct answer about bringing HB 290 into a committee meeting before the end of the session on April 4th, his neighboring colleague Rep. Cox expressed that he felt this was an issue that needs to be heard! Meanwhile, Representatives Mayo, Shipp, and Oliver also support the bill. All expressed, however, the need to hear from THEIR CONSTITUENTS to help bring the bill to a committee hearing. That means we must all be in contact with our Representatives, asking for their support of HB 290 and pressing Rep. Coan to bring this bill to a meeting THIS YEAR!

Georgians are being hit hard by unemployment and a lack of resources in these difficult economic times. Meanwhile, the state budget has been cut again. Rep. Coan only wants to hear bills that have to do with strengthening our economy without realizing how much HB 290 does impact our economy. Consumer spending makes up about 70% of our economy. Putting increased wages into the hands of workers puts them directly back into our local businesses and communities, strengthening both working Georgians and the state economy. This is a bill that his committee SHOULD be addressing.

Please call or write your Representatives and show support for HB 290!! They need to hear from us. They have asked us to contact them. Please visit for more information about HB 290 and how to contact your legislators. Hard work deserves fair pay! We’d also like to thank the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Doug McKillip of Athens, for his continued support.


Stay tuned next week for updates on this past Wednesday's Parent Protection Act lobby day...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watch the Georgia Job/Family Collaborative & the Georgia Minimum Wage Coalition on Lawmakers!

Twice during the month of February, 9to5's coalition work was featured on Georgia Public Broadcasting's "Lawmakers" program.

View the episodes here:

February 10, 2009: National Association of Social Workers (NASW) student lobby day

February 26, 2009: Job/Family Collaborative seniors & kids press conference @ the capitol

To tune in:Simply click on the word "watch" at the top of the screen, allow the entire program to load, and fast forward to the correct time: for the NASW lobby day, coverage starts at 26:33 and for the seniors & kids press conference, coverage begins at 22:40.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more media coverage in the future!