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A Day of Action for Working Families

By: Katherine Perino, InternPosted on October 27, 2015 Issues: Workplace

Today Representative Bobby Scott and other Representatives will host a national Working Families Day of Action, highlighting some of the most crucial issues for workers with families and the bills that could help millions of working people if they became law—but it’s also a reminder that our government has better things to do than waste money targeting women’s healthcare.

Congress has both the power and the responsibility to pass legislation ensuring that working people have meaningful opportunities to build a stable life for themselves and their families. The agenda for the day of action highlights policies to (1) help working parents and caregivers meet their obligations at home and at work; (2) raise wages and protect working people’s rights to organize; and (3) protect workers from bias and discrimination.

Work and Family

People should never have to choose between their income and their children. Unfortunately, our laws were designed for the workplaces of the 1950s, and we need new laws to address the challenges that working families face today in 4 important areas:

  • The Healthy Families Act would guarantee that workers can earn up to 7 paid sick days a year—for workers’ own illnesses and to care for sick family members. Right now, too many working parents face the risk of losing their job if they need to care for a sick child.
  • The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) would guarantee paid family and medical leave when workers need to care for a new child or a relative with a serious health condition. The U.S. is far behind the rest of the world in its failure to guarantee a single paid day of maternity leave; the FAMILY Act would change that.
  • The Schedules that Work Act would help provide greater stability and predictability in work schedules, and ensure workers have a say in their schedules.  Right now, 41% of younger hourly workers only get their schedules 7 days in advance, which can make arranging for child care and meeting other family responsibilities while holding down a job almost impossible.
  • The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would guarantee access to quality Pre-K programs and affordable child care. Right now, the average daycare costs over $11,000 per year, which means that quality childcare programs are far out of reach for many working parents.

Raising Wages

For more than 40 years wages have stagnated, even as productivity has increased tremendously. That means that the rich are getting richer than ever before, while ordinary families struggle to make ends meet. Too many families in America are living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial ruin. We can do better. Here’s how:

  • The Raise the Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. That would mean a raise for more than 35 million workers over the next 5 years, which would stimulate over $110 billion of economic activity.
  • The Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act protects workers’ rights to bargain collectively for better wages and work conditions. Employers have grossly interfered with workers’ attempts to unionize in recent years, which led to a sharp drop in union membership. It’s no secret why: unionized workers take home an average of $207 more per week than non-unionized workers.
  • The Payroll Fraud Prevention Act would protect employees from being misclassified as independent contractors. Misclassification robs working people of legal protections and heightens vulnerability to other abuses. Employers who cheat on their taxes in this way are stealing up to $3 billion a year from the government.

Level the Playing Field

Discrimination has no place on the job. But until we close gaps in our laws, employers can still get away with treating workers differently based on outdated, harmful stereotypes about sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity—and employees risk losing their jobs if they speak up against it. Passing these 3 bills would go a long way towards fixing that:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act would bring us closer to ending the wage gap by strengthening the Equal Pay Act and closing loopholes. Women are paid an average of 79 cents for every dollar paid to a man—and black and Latina women are paid even less. It’s time to change that.
  • The Pregnant Worker Fairness Act would require employers to offer pregnant workers reasonable temporary accommodations when they have a medical need for them, like letting a pregnant worker carry a water bottle. Right now too many workers have to choose between risking their health during pregnancy and risking their job security if they ask for a medically necessary accommodation.
  • The Equality Act would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ employees on the job and elsewhere and would strengthen protections against sex discrimination by closing longstanding gaps in the law. The Equality Act would build on the momentum of the marriage equality decision last summer to ensure that everyone has the same chance to succeed, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

This agenda will help working women and men succeed, which means strong families and a strong economy. If you agree, let us know at @nwlc using #WorkingFamilies today from noon to one, when a Twitter storm will highlight the Day of Action for Working Families.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.