News Brief - August 29

Friday, August 29, 2008 | News

Workers, Wages, Economy

Let workers choose: Giving workers a voice is the purpose of unions

Report: Worker productivity up, pay down
"When it comes to efficient, profitable production, the men and women of the American work force have a lot to be proud of. But when it comes to being rewarded for the work they do, the skills they've sharpened and the contributions they've made, well, that's a different story," Mr. Bernstein said.

US household incomes fail to grow
"Despite an economy that expanded by 18% since 2000, real income for the median family fell by 1.1% from 2000 to 2006."

PA Research Group Offers Economic Plan to Obama and McCain, Scorecard to Voters

Transportation


Insurance Commissioner Poizner Sets Framework For Environmentally–Friendly Automobile Insurance, Increased Options For Consumers
Pay-as-you-drive auto insurance option hits CA.

Family

Families in Economic Freefall - and Off the Political Radar
"As the country prepares to elect the next president of the United States pundits and politicians will certainly talk about "working families" --"middle class families" -– and "poor families." Isn't it time we address the needs of America's families collectively?"

And poverty, poverty, poverty

The Census Bureau released poverty data for 2007:
Census: Uninsured down, poverty up
"Both liberal and conservative experts say the economy is the main driver of the nation's poverty and health-care problems..."
Why focus on a symptom when we agree on the cause?

(AK): State's 07 poverty rate up to 17.9%
"The poverty and income numbers are from the American Community Survey and are not the only way the government measures poverty and income. The government's Current Population Survey showed the number of people living in poverty nationwide increasing."

Poverty rate dips in '07 (CO)
...in Fort Collins city.  But in the county, "The rise in the number of people living below self-sufficiency levels in our community should be a concern for all of us," Thibedeau said.

Poverty Rate Held Steady Last Year, Census Says
"Census officials and health insurance advocates attributed the decrease in the number of uninsured to the growing popularity of government-sponsored health insurance, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)."

Changing economy, changing society fuel poverty increase
"...when those manufacturing jobs disappear, uneducated workers are often faced with low-paying service jobs as their only options."
All jobs are NOT created equal.

For many, it raises questions...
Who's Poor?
New York unveils regional cost-of-living measure.

What is poverty?
The US poverty measure is outdated.

Taking on Poverty and Inequality
"...there is a powerful need for Obama and Democrats to put poverty back on the national radar."
Yeah, right. Maybe if they want the next forty years to look exactly like the last forty since the "war on poverty" began.  What do you expect?

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News Brief - August 22

Friday, August 22, 2008 | News

Economy, prices

Voters in Polls Want Priority to Be Economy, Their Top Issue

Compare that to poverty/hunger/homelessness, which only 3% of people identified as the most important issue in a March 2008 Gallup poll.  Doesn't it make sense to communicate in terms of an issue people really care about?

Real wages fall as record price hikes hit US workers
"...the average household now earns a staggering $1,500 less than it would if wages had kept pace with inflation over the past twelve months."

Power rates spike in some states
Costs are increasing for everyone.

Health, Family Leave

Health, Family Leave

Paid sick-leave mandate opposed by Strickland, Fisher

Business group tallies sick-leave plan cost
Others question study results, say it represents "worst case scenario."

Supreme Court to Review Pro-Worker Ruling on Family Leave
Court to decide whether leave applies to sick family members.

States push laws requiring paid sick days

Massachusetts law spurs rise in health coverage

439,000 more get health coverage
"In the past two years, Massachusetts has embarked on a closely watched experiment to become the first state requiring virtually all residents to have health insurance. The figures released yesterday provide some of the most compelling evidence so far that the experiment is working."

Low-wage work

How Low-Income Neighborhoods Stabilize
Review of Cracks in the Pavement, the result of a 9-year study by UC Berkeley Professor Martin Sanchez-Jankowski on "low-income communities."

Working poor still struggle

Budget woes in California may lead to higher taxes
"Critics call the sales tax hike regressive. It hurts low wage families the hardest because a larger percentage of their income will go towards paying sales taxes."

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The 2008 New Jersey Paid Family Leave Bill: Bringing Employers and Employees...Together?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Here's an update from The Mobility Agenda's Senior Research Associate, Sarah Sattelmeyer.

Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate approved a (long time in the works!) paid family leave bill, which the Assembly passed in March. Governor Corzine has committed to signing this bill, which will make New Jersey the third state to adopt paid family leave.

For those of you who are not work-life policy junkies like myself, family and medical leave (which differs from paid sick days) can guarantee workers time away from work to recover from a personal health condition, for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for an elderly family member, and/or to incorporate additional longer-term family care needs.

The 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act, administered by the US Department of Labor, provides unpaid family and medical leave for some U.S. workers. On the other hand, State Temporary Disability Insurance programs are administered on a state level and offer paid family and medical leave for workers. Employer and employee generally jointly fund these programs.

Many states are working (California has been successful!) to extend their Temporary Disability Insurance programs or develop new programs to cover a wide array of family and medical needs, including adoption. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, New Jersey's new law falls into this category in that it will expand the state's temporary disability insurance program to give workers up to six weeks of family leave benefits to care for a sick family member or a newborn or newly adopted child. It provides temporary disability insurance benefits at two-thirds of wage replacement up to a maximum of $524 per week in 2008, and is financed by a small employee payroll deduction.

It’s about time, right? But despite the passage of this bill through both houses of the New Jersey legislature, significant conflict about the idea of work-life policies still exists. According to an Associated Press reporter and Newsday.com, Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and other opponents of the bill fear that "[t]his [bill will] impose a tax on every employer in our state and continue…to lay the groundwork for the exodus of citizens and employers."

This comment by Senator Beck should have provided the perfect opportunity for Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, a leading proponent of the bill, to use language that bridged the business-worker gap. But instead, he followed in the divisive footsteps of Senator Beck by commenting that "[t]his bill…signif[ies] a new day for the state's work force, in that, the needs of families will be put before the needs of business owners."

Senator Sweeney, while meaning well and clearly a strong champion of workers who is on the right side of this issue, lost his chance to promote the pro-business benefits of work-life policies when he verbally created a divide between “families” and “business owners”—between us and them.

In many situations, employers have used public and private policy to balance competing work-life priorities. In a recent study conducted by WFD Consulting and Corporate Voices for Working Families, offering work-life policies in the workplace improves employee retention, creates more positive human capital outcomes, and establishes a more productive workforce, all of which can lead to stronger financial performance, especially for retail companies whose employees often have a direct relationship with customers. In fact, researchers reporting on a 2002 Watson Wyatt study found that “companies that provide more flexible work arrangements” could see as much as a 3.5 percent rise in shareholder value.

Work-life policies also lead to better mental health and less stress, which contribute to a reduction in employee health care costs. According to the CDC, stress at work can increase employees’ unscheduled absences, and health care expenditures (something about which we are all concerned!) are nearly 50 percent greater for U.S. workers who report high levels of stress.

We still need research to explore the narrative lens that works best when discussing work-life policy with a pro-business contingent. But even without the research, stakeholders should use common sense in their public remarks about work-life policy. New Jersey legislators just passed a bill that will help thousands of workers, but Senator Sweeney’s comments did not even open the door for a productive dialogue with the business community about legislation that affects all of us.

The facts are on his side. The battle is won, but not the war. The Senator Sweeneys of the world need to see their legislation through in a manner that will help other leaders win similar battles.

The Mobility Agenda will soon release Work-Life Policies for the Twenty-First-Century Economy, a report that explains the need for better work-life policy and provides recommendations for stakeholders.

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Work Life Policies Move Forward

Sunday, March 09, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

The movement to guarantee that all workers have paid time off for work life balance is gaining momentum.

Washington DC just passed the second local law in the nation (despite the limitations of the provision, this is progress) and New Jersey seems poised to pass a law offering paid family and medical leave.

And finally, check out this innovative use of the web to create on “online rally” for paid sick days.

Spend your lunch break today speaking out for paid sick days for all working people.

Join us virtually at the U.S. Capitol for the first-ever Online Rally for Healthy Families — a special online event hosted by the National Partnership and the Healthy Families Act coalition.

Bring your friends and co-workers along....

You can join the rally by visiting EveryoneGetsSick.org and then share your story, upload a photo, take action, and more.

Color me green – I love this creative use of the available technology.

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