BIG IDEAS TO HELP WORKING PARENTS

ABSTRACT: Working parents in the U.S. are struggling both to make ends meet and to be good parents. They need to be paid a reasonable wage so that full-time work provides a decent standard of living for their families (as it used to). Furthermore, employers and government should work together to ensure that workplaces are family-friendly. These are the first two topics of Ten Big Ideas to Save the Economy, presented by MoveOn.org and Robert Reich in 3 minute videos.

The first Big Idea is the Fight for $15 – the campaign for a $15 minimum wage. If the minimum wage had kept up with increases in productivity since 1968, the minimum wage would be over $21 per hour. If it had simply kept up with inflation it would be over $10 per hour. If we want to be a decent and fair society, we need to pay working parents a decent and fair wage. Also, a higher minimum wage would save employers money be reducing turnover.

The second Big Idea is a set of policies and practices that make work family-friendly. Working parents need:

  • Equal pay for women
  • Predictable schedules with regular hours
  • Reliable, high quality child care
  • Paid family leave

We don’t have a healthy society if we don’t have healthy families and we can’t have a strong country if we don’t have strong families. Providing basic economic security and family-friendly workplaces for our working parents is critical to having strong, healthy families. This is not only an essential investment in families and our economy, but also in our future – our children.

FULL POST: Working parents in the U.S. are struggling both to make ends meet and to be good parents. They need to be paid a reasonable wage so that full-time work provides a decent standard of living for their families (as it used to). Furthermore, employers and government should work together to ensure that workplaces are family-friendly. These are the first two topics of Ten Big Ideas to Save the Economy, presented in 3 minute videos by Robert Reich (President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor) and MoveOn.org (the progressive, grassroots organization promoting participation in our democracy).

The first of these ten commonsense ideas to make our economy work for everyone is the Fight for $15 – the campaign for a $15 minimum wage. A $15 per hour wage would mean that a full-time worker would make about $30,000 a year. [1] Even at this level, many families would still be struggling to make ends meet. Currently, with the federal minimum wage at $7.25, a third of all families live paycheck to paycheck. If, since 1968, the minimum wage had kept up with increases in workers’ productivity (how much the output of their work is worth), the minimum wage would be over $21 per hour. If it had simply kept up with inflation it would be over $10 per hour. If we want to be a decent and fair society, we need to pay working parents a decent and fair wage.

Minimum wage workers are not kids making a little spending money; half of them are over 35 years old, many are women, and many are supporting families. A higher minimum wage would save employers money be reducing turnover, which reduces the costs of recruiting and training new workers. A number of cities (e.g., Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) have made the commitment to raising their minimum wages to $15 an hour; the rest of the country should follow suit.

The second Big Idea is a set of policies and practices that make work family-friendly. [2] For starters, women should receive equal pay. Also, working parents need predictable schedules with regular hours so they can plan their families’ schedules and know how much income they will have. In some business sectors (such as retail sales, food service, and home care), the majority of workers don’t know their schedules a week in advance. Some only get a few hours’ notice and some show up at work and are told to go home (without any pay) because it’s a slow day. Many employers manage part-time workers’ schedules to make sure they don’t earn any overtime or qualify for benefits. [3]

Reliable, high quality child care, including for out-of-school time when parents are working, needs to be universally available and affordable. Parents (both mothers and fathers) should receive paid family leave when a new child joins the family and if a health emergency occurs.

The benefits of raising the minimum wage and instituting family-friendly workplace policies are broad and reach well beyond workers and their families. Employers would benefit from having more reliable, productive employees. Society (i.e., taxpayers) would also benefit, not only from improved economic efficiency, but also because the children of working parents would be more likely to be successful in school and in life. Other developed countries have implemented most if not all of these policies; we can too if we have the public will to make this a priority.

We don’t have a healthy society if we don’t have healthy families and we can’t have a strong country if we don’t have strong families. Providing basic economic security and family-friendly workplaces is critical to having strong, healthy families. Family values means supporting working parents, which also gives their children a fair chance to succeed. Helping working parents is not only an essential investment in our families and our economy, but also in our children who are the future of our nation and our economy.

[1]       You can watch the 3 minute video at: http://civ.moveon.org/fightfor15/share.html?id=114907-5637721-4VHTwex#watch.

[2]       You can watch the 3 minute video at: http://civic.moveon.org/helpworkingfamilies/share.html?id=115612-5637721-L2wvmQx#watch.

[3]       Loth, R., 5/29/15, “For workers, ‘flexible’ schedule means unpredictability,” The Boston Globe

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