Work-life policies are increasingly high-stakes economics – Axios

by | Sep 19, 2022 | Financial

Work-life policies like paid sick and medical leave, as well as reasonable hours and scheduling, are becoming a more high-stakes economic issue, as in-person workers exercise their increased leverage in a tight labor market — and cope with more than two years of working on the front lines of a pandemic. Driving the news: A fight over paid sick leave and working conditions almost brought the country’s economy to a standstill last week. Railway workers, who say they don’t have easy access to paid sick time, were ready to strike if their employers wouldn’t improve working conditions. These issues make up the human side of the supply chain, which proved fragile in the crisis. “These are human beings, you know, they’re not machines,” says Sharita Gruberg, a vice-president at the National Partnership for Women and Families.Background: The railroad companies, in an effort to keep costs down and profits up, instituted a restrictive policy requiring employees to be on call more often, and penalizing them with a point-based system for taking unscheduled time off, the New York Times reported. Rail workers didn’t get any paid sick time, they said. During the supply chain crisis, when business picked up, the harsh policies “pushed workers to the limits of their physical and mental health,” per the NYT.The tentative agreement reached last week gives railroad workers unpaid time off for medical care and illness, and sets a key precedent for the unions in bargaining for leave — something they hadn’t done before.Meanwhile: Workers in many fields are more willing to strike, demanding better pay and — crucially — improved conditions, the Wall Street Journal reports, noting that it reflects how the pandemic has reshaped jobs and attitudes about work.In Minnesota last week, 15,000 nurses walked off the job over stalled contract negotiations. Nurses say they’re burned out after three years of working in a pandemic.Mental-health workers are on strike in California and Hawaii, and nursing home workers in Pennsylvania just wrapped up a strike last week, too, earning better pay and better nurse-to-patient ratios …

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