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Midwest Workers Speak: The Employee Case for Flexibility in Manufacturing

April 15, 2011

On April 14 the U.S. Department of Labor was  in Chicago to host the third national forum in their series of “National Dialogues on Workplace Flexibility.” This event was focused on the challenges facing the manufacturing sector.

Family Values @ Work and the National Partnership for Women & Families talked to a dozen employees in Chicago and Milwaukee to get their take on what flexibility means to workers. This report provides a snapshot of the challenges that workers face and the kinds of workplace flexibility that are most valuable to them.

These workers have seen their jobs outsourced to other countries – and to temps paid much less and with no benefits. The permanent workers face rigid schedules and long hours. In addition to low pay, temps describe unpredictable schedules. Both groups face discipline for needing time to care for a personal or family illness. All of this wreaks havoc on families.

What do the workers want? An end to being treated as “disposable.” Predictable and fair schedules. Equal and decent treatment. Reasonable paid sick days and affordable family leave so “you don’t feel threatened because you have to go to the doctor.”

Those who already have some control over their schedules and paid time off shared that they feel valued and respected – and see the value of these policies for the bottom line. As a maintenance mechanic put it, “If you’re happy and your customers are happy, that’s making your business grow.”

Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, delivered the closing keynote based on these workers’ experiences.

Here’s our report on Midwest workers speak.

 

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