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Recap: The Schedules That Work Act Briefing, July 22nd

The Schedules that Work Act was introduced in the House & Senate this past Tuesday, followed by a standing-room-only congressional briefing about why workers need fair work schedules. Read more »

Workers Are Making Their Voices Heard in Support of The Schedules That Work Act!

Yesterday, Representatives Miller and DeLauro and Senators Harkin and Warren introduced the Schedules That Work Act. This groundbreaking legislation would give all Americans a say in when they work and curb the most abusive scheduling practices in certain low-wage jobs. At a congressional briefing, workers from the restaurant, retail and fast food industries explained to a standing room only crowd what it’s like to have no clue what your schedule will be from one day to the next, and why we need the Schedules That Work Act.

Schedules That Work

Schedules That Work Act Press Conference –7.22.14. From Left to Right: Sandy Kossangba (ROC), Representative Rosa DeLauro, Melody Pabon (RAP), Sherry Hamilton-Elder (RWDSU), Tiffany Beroid (OW), Liz Watson (NWLC), Representative George Miller, and Mary Coleman (Wisconsin Jobs NOW).

Here’s what they said: Read more »

10 Comments That Make It Clear: Workers Need Schedules That Work

Imagine getting to work for your scheduled shift after taking an hour-long bus commute only to be told to go home without clocking in because there were enough employees there already. Seems ridiculous, right? But that was Mary Coleman’s reality when she arrived at work at a Popeye’s in Milwaukee.

Her story was published last Wednesday in a New York Times article on the unpredictable workplace hours and short notice scheduling that are a reality for many workers. Readers had a lot to say about the issue – it garnered more than 440 responses in the comment section.

Many readers were shocked and angry about the unfair treatment that Mary and other workers faced, and others had personal stories about unpredictable scheduling in their own workplaces.

Here are 10 of our favorite comments from the NYT article from readers who agree that fair hours and predictable scheduling are rights that should be given to all workers. Read more »

The Power of Presidential Pen

This morning, I was lucky enough to be there in person to see President Obama sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as explicitly adding “gender identity” to the federal government’s own nondiscrimination in employment policy (which already prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation).

As the President said this morning, while we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality, today’s milestone is an important moment to take stock of the extraordinary progress made “not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years, in the last two years, in the last one year. We’re on the right side of history.” Read more »

Women’s Rights are No Joke! The Top 5 Things to Know About Women and the Civil Rights Act

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. It banned race discrimination by recipients of federal funds, helping to advance school desegregation; it prohibited race discrimination in public accommodations; and—crucially—it banned employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and sex.  

As we look back on this critical anniversary for civil rights, we have a prime opportunity to remember the ways in which the Act influences and was influenced by women.

  1. Women’s rights should never be a joke, but they were a laughing matter on the floor of Congress when Representative Howard Smith of Virginia suggested adding sex as an additional basis on which to prohibit employment discrimination, a proposition that seemed hilarious to many of his colleagues. Smith, a southern Democrat, was a staunch segregationist, and included women’s rights as a ploy to kill the entire civil rights bill.
  2. Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan was integral to the inclusion of women as a protected class. After Smith mockingly introduced the idea, Griffiths fought to lobby other representatives to support it, and wound up triumphing.

Title VII at 50: Then and Now

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation into law on July 2, 1964, for the first time in the nation’s history, federal law prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

Title VII has opened up a world of opportunity for women in the workplace. In 1964, women made up only 35 percent of the workforce. Pregnant workers were often kicked out of the workplace the moment they started showing. Women were limited to certain occupations based solely on the fact that they were women. Today, women make up half of the workforce and 40 percent are sole or primary breadwinners for their families.

Despite tremendous progress, there is still a long way to go. For many women, particularly women working in low-wage jobs and women of color, discrimination remains an all too real reality in the workplace. Pregnant workers who have a medical need for temporary modifications in job policies or duties in order to continue working safely through their pregnancies are often denied these accommodations and forced out of their jobs instead, even when employers are already providing accommodations to workers who need them because of disabilities or injuries.  Women working in the same job as men are still paid less based on the false assumption that women do not “need” fair wages, because they do not have breadwinning responsibilities. Read more »

Obama and the "Mad Men" Era: Harnessing Popular Culture at the Summit on Working Families

At last Monday’s White House Summit on Working Families, the President spoke about the need for family-friendly workplace policies, like child care, family leave, equal pay, and flexibility. Celebrity guest Christina Hendricks, who plays working mother Joan on AMC’s Mad Men, also spoke briefly: “Women come up to me and thank me for playing Joan,” she told the audience, adding that “the only place for a story like Joan[’s] should be on TV.”

Her appearance was, first and foremost, a smart move on the part of the White House to shift the conversation beyond the Beltway and policy wonks. President Obama frequently refers to policies “that belong in a Mad Men episode.” In this year’s State of the Union address, for example, he used the phrase to argue that a woman deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job; that she deserves equal pay for equal work; and that she deserves a day off to care for a sick child or parent. By rooting such policies in concrete television show imagery, Obama is able to heighten their staying power. Read more »

President Obama Stands Up for Pregnant Workers

It’s a pretty special day when you get a shout-out from the President. And yesterday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, pregnant workers got that shout-out. Twenty-first century families need 21st century workplaces, the President said:

That means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job. Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks—clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant—or forced [onto] unpaid leave. That makes no sense.

Of course, the President is right. (And as someone who was lucky enough to be there in person, I can attest that these remarks got a huge cheer inside the standing-room-only event.) Right now, when pregnant workers have a medical need for a temporary accommodation, too often bosses say no, even when they provide accommodations to workers who need them because of disabilities or injuries. Pregnant workers are then faced with a choice no one should have to make, between ignoring their doctor’s advice and putting their jobs at risk. But luckily there’s a solution at hand, as the President made clear, when he urged, “Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.” Read more »

Serving Up the Truth About Sexual Harassment, With a Side of Commonsense

Written by Nikki Lewis, Executive Director, DC Jobs with Justice, and Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women, NWLC

What do you call the person who can make you stay late at work, who decides who works the night shift and who works days, who works the cash register and who cleans the toilets? You call that person the boss. But exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court said that if the person who directs your daily work harasses you, unless they also have the power to hire and fire you, the strong protections that are supposed to kick in when bosses harass their subordinates do not apply.

Right about now, you might be scratching your head thinking that this doesn’t make any sense. And you would be right. But let us explain how we ended up with this terrible rule and what can be done about it. Read more »

A Tale of Two Macy's

Earlier today, I caught up with Kay Thompson and Sasha Hammad during a break at the White House Summit on Working Families. Kay spoke at the Summit about what having a predicable full-time schedule and a say in the timing of her work hours has meant for her family. Sasha Hammad is director of the Retail Action Project, and is fighting to secure these same protections for all retail workers in New York City.

Liz: Kay, you mentioned you work at Macy’s.

Kay: Yes, I work at Macy’s in Herald’s Square in the domestics department. And I’m a proud member of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW.

Liz: And what does your work schedule there look like?

Kay: Thanks to my collective bargaining agreement, my schedule guarantees me the right to choose my days off six months in advance, and determine which days I am available to come in early and which days I can work late. Even during the holiday season, I get my schedule three weeks in advance.

Liz: From your remarks in there, it sounds like this schedule has made a big difference to you and your family. Read more »