Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday October 26th, 2015, 11:51pm

U.S. House Dems Set To Press For Action On Supports For Working Families

U.S. House Democrats are set to hold a day of action Tuesday at the nation's Capitol to promote proposed policies important to working families.

Policy advocates hope the "Working Families Day of Action" will result in more bipartisan support for the legislative proposals, which center around paid sick days, paid family leave, work schedule flexibility, access to affordable child care and equal pay for equal work, among other issues.

As part of the effort, Democratic lawmakers are looking to secure more co-sponsors for the proposed legislation and advocate for a resolution in support of bringing the bills up for a vote.

Additionally, House Dems plan to host a public forum Tuesday afternoon on the proposed policies, which also involve a minimum wage increase, accommodations for pregnant workers, employment protections for workers who identify as LGBT and fair chance hiring reforms to help formerly incarcerated people.

Melissa Josephs, with the Chicago-based advocacy group Women Employed, described the federal proposals as "basic laws that all workers need, particularly low-wage workers."

Women Employed and other supporters of the so-called "working families agenda" plan to highlight the proposals during an hourlong social media blitz Tuesday afternoon as part of the day of action. Advocates will take to Twitter and other social media platforms under the hashtag "WorkingFamilies" from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET.

The day of action comes after U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI,1) sparked public debate over family-friendly policies last week when he said he would not take the House speaker position if it meant him having to give up his family time.

While Josephs said she is glad that Ryan's comments prompted a national discussion about work-life balance, she said it's time for Congress to pass policies to ensure that all workers are "able to balance work and family."

"Paul Ryan already has paid sick days and paid family leave, and what he was really talking about was just the number of hours he has to work," she explained. "Not everybody has that kind of support or flexibility. So I think that is great that (this issue) has been in the news, but so far he has not been a supporter of these bills, like the Family Act, which is paid family medical leave, or paid sick days ... I think it's only logical he's probably going to start supporting this, right? Because otherwise he's so publicly hypocritical."

Overall, the policies on the working families agenda would need Republican backing in order to clear the GOP-controlled Congress. Josephs expressed optimism that the national day of action could push some Republicans to support the proposals.

One pending bill on the working families agenda, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, S. 1512 and H.R. 2654, already has bipartisan support in both chambers. Under the bill, employers would have to provide reasonable work accommodations for pregnant employees. 

The measure is similar to a 2014 state law in Illinois that provides extra protection for pregnant women on the job.

Women Employed advocated for the state's "pregnancy fairness" measure and is currently involved with legislative efforts around paid sick days and other worker issues at the state level and in Chicago.

"The ideal situation is for all these bills to be passed at the federal level ... so that it does affect all workers," Josephs said. "To the extent that we can't get it passed, it's not like we're waiting around."

Josephs said state legislation on paid sick days, family medical leave and work schedule flexibility is pending in Springfield.

Women Employed is also represented on a mayoral task force in Chicago that is currently looking into several worker issues, including paid sick leave. It was reported back in June, when the task force first met, that the group's policy recommendations would be released this fall. Josephs said the task force's recommendations could be released soon, though an exact date is not yet known.

Josephs said Chicago should enact a citywide paid sick days policy. 

"The cities that have passed it have shown that the worst hasn't happened," she said. "Some people fear the businesses will go out of business, they'll leave the city and go somewhere else. That is not happening because people are using it when they need to. They're not abusing it."


Paid sick days, paid family leave, work schedule flexibility, access to affordable child care and equal pay for equal work. 

All of these issues can be resolved across the bargaining table.  There's no need for more government control and regulations.  One-size-fits-all isn't a good solution.  Let the employees form or join a union and find an agreeable set of working requirements that fit them and their employers. 

Let the government be free to work on important legislation, like ways to reduce taxes and cut government spending.

Bob Kastigar, IBEW Local 1220 Chicago



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