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Forgotten Faces of the Working Poor: What LowWage Families Need for Work to Work


Being a Good Family Member Can Cost You Your Job ... bus, delivered newspapers, worked with the Girl Scouts, and sold Tupperware. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Forgotten Faces of the Working Poor: What LowWage Families Need for Work to Work

Forgotten Faces of the Working Poor What
Low-Wage Families Need for Work to Work
  • Ellen Bravo
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Coordinator, Multi-States Working Families

Being a Good Family Member Can Cost You Your Job
  • Not enough time to care kids, seniors, families
  • Affects many, but especially low-wage

Time to Care
  • More than balance basics
  • More than stress crisis
  • Race as well as class
  • Consequences for kids
  • Affects women most, but low-wage men, too.

Background 1978
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • cant fire women for being pregnant but you
    dont have to hold their jobs.
  • pregnancy like other temporary disabilities but
    most women work for firms with no short-term
    disability plans.

Problems with FMLA
Background Sick Days
  • Half the workforce and ¾ of low-wage workers -
    have no paid sick days.
  • Many who do cant use them to care for sick
    family members.

Background 1996
  • Welfare as we know it is ended -- by those
    whove never known it.
  • What low-wage women used for family leave
  • TANF is modeled on conditions of low-wage women
    which forced many onto welfare.
  • Cut rolls, not poverty

Background Child Care
  • Seen as private matter.
  • How assistance collides with reality
  • cuts in funds
  • lack of availability
  • higher co-pays
  • often low-quality
  • doesnt match shifts
  • For low-wage, patchwork at best.
  • Inadequate after-school, summer programs

Attitudes, Assumptions
  • Aha moments in Across the Boundaries study
  • Do you have any idea what my life is like?

Institutional Policies and Practices
  • Lack of Policies
  • If the kids are sick and sent home from school,
    theres no place for them to go. The school
    called and said I had to get my 5-year-old
    daughter. I was fired.
  • -DeNice, rural county outside Eau Claire, WI

Problem Policies Contd
  • Lack of Flexibility
  • Increase in non-standard shifts
  • Not allowed to make up time
  • Rigid use of personal days
  • At the fringes
  • Even best list companies fall short
  • Policies for managers only (e.g., lactation)
  • Depends on manager discretion

Problem Practices Contd
  • Objective requirements affecting women
  • Example no tolerance for lateness
  • Based on stereotyped view of ideal worker as
    someone with car, phone, back-up

Policies Available But Inequitable
  • Part-time Report
  • For professional, fewer benefits and
    opportunities to advance.
  • For low-wage, lower pay rate, no benefits,
    multiple jobs.

Reality for Low-Wage Workers
  • I had 4 jobs - I drove a school bus, delivered
    newspapers, worked with the Girl Scouts, and sold
    Tupperware. None of the jobs had benefits.
  • I had to make hard choices about supporting my
    kids instead of spending time with them.
  • - Julia, Milwaukee

Impact on Parents and Kids
  • Work cant pay if it doesnt last and it cant
    last if it jeopardizes kids.
  • Cost of starting over.

Impact on Children
  • Kids go to school sick.
  • Kids send themselves to school sick.
  • Health and learning problems become disabilities.

Whats at Stake for Low-Wage Workers
  • High cost of being poor
  • Ability to keep a job, build assets
  • Well-being of children and families
  • High costs for employers

Whats at Stake for Women
  • Low-income women average much less pay than male
    counterparts, partly because of job loss due to
    family care.
  • This is one reason the U.S. has the highest
    child-poverty rate in the industrialized world.

Affects Men As Well
  • Low-wage men, especially men of color, have least
    flexible jobs
  • Many more would be good fathers if not punished
    at work

Redesign the Building
  • core instead of fringe, how work designed
  • change concept success
  • make formal, available to all
  • make affordable, accessible
  • quality part-time - equity in pay, benefits,
  • hold managers accountable

Guarantee for All
  • Some smart employers will do this on their own.
  • Not all like asking 2-year-olds to determine
    when they need a time out.

Solutions Public Policies
  • Ø     affordable leave use it or lose it
  • Ø     include routine illness, Healthy Families
  • Ø     expand definition family same-sex, sibs,
  • Ø     raise the wage floor
  • Ø     re-value caregiving work
  • Ø     equity for part-timers
  • Ø     right to request flexible schedules
  • end mandatory overtime
  • expand the right to organize

Public Policy Changes
  • Child Care
  • Public investment
  • Improve quality
  • Reform TANF
  • After-school care

  • Erode the 40-hour work week
  • Gut the FMLA

Multi-State Working Families Consortium
  • Eight state coalitions California, Georgia,
    Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey,
    Washington and Wisconsin
  • Collaborating for more effective action, raise
    public awareness.

Making Progress in the States
  • Winning forms of paid leave
  • expanding TDI to include family leave
  • California
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • creating new form of social insurance
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts

Making Progress in the States
  • Making progress on guaranteeing protection
  • Sick days
  • Massachusetts
  • All of us
  • Family Care
  • Maine
  • FMLA for school activities
  • Georgia
  • Wisconsin

Making Progress in the States
  • Expanding UI for part-timers, family hardship
  • Maine
  • Georgia
  • Wisconsin
  • Exposing efforts to gut FMLA
  • Rapid Response Team

Increased Collaboration
  • Connecting the dots
  • Labor . Women . Seniors .
    Progressive employers . Family physicians .
    Faith-based . Disabilities groups .
    Chronic disease . Alzheimers Associations .
    AIDS groups . Mental health organizations
    . PTAs . Principals . School boards
    . Social workers . Cities/counties groups
    . Citizen Action . Welfare
    rights/anti-poverty groups . Childrens
    groups . Foster children . Work-family
    researchers . Legal groups . Parents of
    adult disabled . Adoption groups .
    Immigrant advocates . Groups in communities
    of color . Human Rights groups .
    Non-profit associations . Insurers .
    Womens business associations . AAUW . YWCA
    . Planned Parenthood .

New Opportunities
  • Lay the groundwork for policy change.
  • Redefining issues linking what happens to kids,
    families with what happens to parents at work.