National nonprofit advocacy and policy organization that partners and collaborates with community based organizations and labor unions to improve public policies for working families. Labor Project for Working Families provides education, resources, and technical assistance to labor unions on work and family issues including quality child care, elder care, family leave and flexible work hours. Particular focus is placed on low income working families. The Labor Project chairs and convenes the California Work and Family Coalition.
The California Work and Family Coalition comprises a network of over 25 community and advocacy organizations and strives to educate California’s working families about policies such as the Paid Family Leave law so that more family caregivers in the state are able to utilize the benefits offered by the program. The Coalition also works on mobilizing the public and influencing lawmakers to create and enhance legislation that supports California’s family caregivers in their ability to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.
Building on the successful passage of California’s groundbreaking Paid Family Leave (PFL) law, the Coalition reconvened in 2006 under the leadership of the Labor Project for Working Families to advocate for new statewide policies that help working families with caregiving responsibilities. The Coalition promoted three bills in 2007 to expand California’s paid and unpaid family leave laws and protect employees from discrimination at work based on their familial status such as having young children or elderly parents. The bills were passed by the state legislature but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
The Coalition has built momentum around the bills by drawing new supporters and organizations into its fold. The Coalition plans to reintroduce these bills in the near future.
Following the Coalition’s lobbying efforts, the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) in 2008 established the first ever staffed unit devoted to outreach and education about the Paid Family Leave program.
After the coalition was successful in passing the nation’s first paid family leave law in 2004, they reconvened in 2006 to work on issues around expanding the policy and doing more extensive outreach. One finding from the 2 years that the law had been in existence was that family caregivers were taking paid family leave at a much lower rate than new parents. Accordingly, many of the coalition’s expansion efforts in 2006/2007 focused on caregivers – expanding the law to more caregivers (siblings, grandparents, etc) and getting the word out to more caregivers, a vast number of whom are caring for family members with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.
In 2008, New Jersey passed a paid family leave law modeled after California’s law. New Jersey also built a coalition around the issue and learned from California’s experience how to successfully advocate for such a policy. One important component of both leave programs is that they rely on a small additional income tax designated to the paid family leave fund.
Comments: California’s model family leave laws are an essential support available to caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. The CA Work and Family Coalition has, over time, addressed gaps in the legislation and is now working to ensure that family caregivers, many of whom care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease, take advantage of these benefits. The policy and the Coalition’s advocacy approach have already been replicated by one state.