What do you do when school says you must show up to register your kids, and
work says you must stay overtime for an extra shift?
If you're like Vickie Underwood, in DeKalb County, Georgia, you choose your
Underwood told her boss she was sorry but, unlike all the other times she
did stay overtime, she couldn't that day. She figured two decades with an
unblemished work record would show her commitment to the job.
Her boss disagreed. Underwood was fired for violating the mandatory overtime
We hear a lot of talk about freedoms in the U.S. Apparently the freedom to
refuse mandatory overtime isn't one of them.
Neither is the freedom to care for a sick family member. Just ask Monique
Evans. When she called her supervisor at a Wendy's in Portland, Maine, to
explain that her two-year-old had the flu, the supervisor told her to come
in anyway. When Evans refused, the supervisor cut her hours from 40 per
week to 15 and demoted her to mopping floors and cleaning toilets.
This is the time of year when schools require children to be vaccinated.
Keeping kids free of preventable diseases boosts learning and general child
But many parents - most of them low wage workers who can't afford to risk
their jobs -- can't take the day off to get the children immunized.
The truth is, for millions of workers in this country, being a good family
member can mean risking job, paycheck, or peace of mind. And being a
responsible employee can put your family or relationship at risk.
Vickie Underwood and Monique Evans are among the many whose stories are told
in a new report entitled, "Family Values at Work: It's About Time! Why We
Need Minimum Standards to Ensure a Family-Friendly Workplace." The report
was published by a network of state coalitions known as the MultiState
Working Families Consortium.
With photos and stories, this report puts faces to the statistics, detailing
what it means when family values end at the workplace door. It also
summarizes mounds of research that tell us that policies like paid sick days
and family leave insurance aren't just the moral thing to do, aren't just
good for workers and their families - they're good for business and
taxpayers as well.
Consider this factoid, for instance: Replacing a salaried worker costs on
average one and a half times more than the fired worker was earning
annually. What about someone making $8 an hour? Even these low-wage workers
cost an employer an average of $5,506 apiece to replace.
Political candidates, pay attention. "Family Values at Work" describes the
growing movement to win time to care, and announces new polling data showing
that voters want such policies. Nearly nine in ten voters support paid sick
days - and that's across demographics and party lines. Similarly, more than
three in four support family leave insurance plans.
Most important, this document makes the case for government action as the
only way to protect workers like Vickie and Monique. The right-wing keeps
trying to tell us that our problem is big government. But "Family Values at
Work" reminds us that a proper role of government is creating minimum
standards for how we will conduct ourselves as a nation.
Every so often, we say, enough -- something we put up with for a long time,
like slavery or child labor or discrimination against racial groups or
women, suddenly seems barbaric.
It's about time we said that about forcing people like Vickie Underwood and
Monique Evans to risk their loved ones or their livelihoods.
You can read "Family Values at Work" on 9to5's website, www.9to5.org.
"A Peaceful Revolution" is a weekly blog about work/life satisfaction done
in collaboration with MomsRising.org. Read a blog by a leading thinker in
the field every Tuesday.
Follow Ellen Bravo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FmlyValuesWork