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New laws possible to help balance work and family

If you're struggling to balance work and family, thank Karen Nussbaum for trying to make your life easier.

Up in the nation's capital today there was a hearing by the Joint Economic Committee on “Balancing Work and Family in the Recession”. The Committee examined the current recession’s impact on trends in the workplace that help employees meet the dual commitments of work and family life. There's a lot of conversation and research going on to prove that workplaces with unions are more family-friendly.

One of the most informed women on the topic of work and family is Working America Executive Director Karen Nussbaum.

The AFL-CIO NOW blog reports that Nussbaum  told the committee that the nation needs new laws to help people balance work and family. She said without enforceable workplace standards, such as paid family leave, most employers will not take necessary steps to initiate basic policies that allow workers to balance work and family. She also cited several examples of how workers’ benefits and safeguards have disappeared in recent decades.

  • Median family income has stagnated and actually dropped from 2000-2006.
  • Defined-benefit pensions are a thing of the past—25 years ago, more than 80 percent of large and medium-size firms offered defined-benefit pensions. Today, less than a third do.
  • Nearly half of private-sector workers have no paid sick leave.
  • Nearly a quarter of workers have no paid vacation or holidays, and Americans work, on average, a month longer each year than in 1983.
  • More and more women are working multiple jobs and nonstandard hours—more than one out of four regularly work nights or weekends. And nearly half of all women work different schedules than spouses or partners.

Read Nussbaum’s testimony here.

Nussbaum, who headed the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau under former President Bill Clinton, added:  We are now far behind all other industrial countries both in standards and practice....Now is the time to put the next generation of basic workplace safeguards in place.

      It's going to be interesting to see where the conversation goes from here. But I know many women and men who would benefit in a big way from mandatory paid sick leave and other family-friendly benefits.