Federal Standards for Paid Leave Will Help Workers Stay Healthy and Productive

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project

Most workers have the option to earn paid time off for when they get sick or need to care for a newborn child, right?


According to a new brief by CLASP, only 30% of low-wage workers have access to paid sick days and nearly half of all workers in the lowest 35% of wage earners have no paid personal time, sick time, family leave, or paid vacation.workers

CLASP’s research reminds us that paid leave is a key form of compensation. Without it, workers must forgo wages when they take time off because they or a loved one is ill. Yet paid leave disproportionately benefits higher-income earners, leaving out many low-wage workers and workers of color. According to CLASP’s research, 47% of all Hispanic workers in the U.S. have access to paid sick days, compared to 64% of White workers and 62% percent of Black workers. In addition, just 25% of Latino worker have access to some paid parental leave, compared to 50% of White workers and 43% of Black workers. Without paid leave, low-wage workers face a double blow: lower compensation and unfair tradeoffs between health and economic security for them and their families.

Now more than ever, it is important for decision-makers to support policies that boost compensation, including access to paid leave. That’s because the majority of post-recession job growth is in low-wage jobs, and economic inequality is at record highs. Working families are struggling to cover their basic expenses. They deserve to not be penalized for taking a day to care for themselves or a loved one.

In today’s economy, a majority of Latinos prioritize having a protected and steady job. Thus, many Hispanic workers in the low-wage market do not ask for days off for fear of losing their jobs. In some cases, taking unpaid leave is not an option when workers cannot make ends meet. Since Latinos are more likely to be employed in the low-wage labor market and work in part-time or temporary positions, they rarely have access to benefits such as paid vacation or guarantees under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—a national law that allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for themselves or their loved ones. Without paid parental leave, many workers, particularly working mothers, are forced to choose between a day’s wages or caring for a family member in need.

Paid leave not only helps keep workers and their families healthy but also allows workers to stay productive. Unfortunately, there is no federal standard requiring paid leave benefits. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the only states that have their own paid leave laws. These states serve as blueprints for national legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and protect the economic security of their families. Several proposals in Congress would create a national standard for paid sick days, such as the “Healthy Families Act,” or provide 12 weeks of paid leave per year for employees for health-related events, such as the “FAMILY Act.”

NCLR and other advocates believe that the time to broaden the protections offered by FMLA is now. We must pass federal legislation that would prevent all workers from having to choose between earning wages or forfeiting their jobs when facing family responsibilities.

Three Things to Know about Cervical Cancer Prevention

Smiling DoctorBack in January, we wrote here about cervical cancer and Pap tests, which look for cancers and pre-cancers in the cervix. This month, it is National Minority Health Month, which is a time to discuss health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. It’s also a perfect opportunity to remind you how to prevent cervical cancer.

The theme of this year’s Minority Health Month is “Prevention is Power”. Considering Latinas have the second highest rate of getting and dying from cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups, we are back to tell you three things you should know about cervical cancer prevention.

  1. More than half of cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test of have not been tested in the past five years. Periodic Pap tests play a huge role in preventing cervical cancer. Pap tests can catch pre-cancerous or cancerous cells when treatment is still relatively simple. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women should begin getting Pap tests at 21. While there are general guidelines about how often to get a Pap test, you can talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
  2. If you have health insurance, Pap tests are covered as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Depending on your health insurance plan, you may be able to get a Pap test at no cost to you. Check with your insurance plan to learn about what it is included in your plan.
  3. If you do not have health insurance, you may be eligible for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) through the CDC. This CDC program provides free or low-cost mammograms or Pap tests to women who have low-income and little or no health insurance. To learn more about eligibility for this program, take a look at the criteria on the NBCCEDP website.

We’re Hiring!


We’ve got a number of positions we’re trying to fill in our Policy Analysis Center. Take a look and follow the instructions for submitting your application if you think you would make a good fit at NCLR!

Director Health Policy Project

Assoc Director, Policy Analysis Center

Education Policy Analyst

Policy Analyst

Weekly Washington Outlook – April 14, 2014

Congress Instagram

What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House is in recess, returning Monday, April 28th.

The Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning Monday, April 28th.

White House:

On Monday, the President will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.  On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.  On Wednesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.  On Thursday, the President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.  A cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being, the Soldier Ride also raises awareness of our nation’s Wounded Warriors who battle the physical and psychological damages of war.  On Friday, the President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion.  Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Also this week and beyond:

Emergency Unemployment Compensation – Last week, the Senate approved a five-month retroactive extension of lapsed unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Moving to the House, Speaker Boehner has made clear that he would only bring a paid-for extension to the floor and that it must also include job-creation measures.  There has been some speculation that an extension could include a compromise on job training programs or business tax cuts, but the Speaker has made no comment on specifics.

Budget/Appropriations – This morning, the Congressional Budget Office will release a new budget baseline.  This will be an update of CBO’s revenue forecasts from February and should also include revised estimates of the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  On Thursday, CBO says it will have its analysis of the president’s latest budget request.

HealthThe President announced on Friday morning that Secretary Sebelius is stepping down as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services.  She will be replaced by current Director of the Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Matthews Burwell.  Burwell is widely expected to be confirmed.  It is not yet clear who will replace her OMB.

Housing Finance ReformThe Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a mark-up of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance overhaul bill for April 29th.  In recent weeks, a number of high-profile editorials have taken aim at the bill’s deficiencies.  The Wall Street Journal on Monday morning chimed in and suggested that Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Crapo should “go back to the drawing board.”  Full text here.

EducationThe House Education and Workforce Committee last week marked-up a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and modernize charter school programs (H.R. 10).  Ahead of a pending floor vote, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) instructed his colleagues to visit charter schools in their districts to build further support for the measure.  The focus on school choice for House Republicans is also part of a broader campaign to make the GOP more appealing to minority voters.

Minimum Wage – A procedural vote to advance a minimum wage hike has been postponed again and is now expected in the Senate sometime in early May.  However, the next work period in the Senate is now likely to be dominated by judicial nominations and several bipartisan measures, including the long-stalled Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.  As a result, it is possible that a vote on minimum wage could be put off once again.

Tax ReformFollowing the recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he plans to bring to the floor the so-called “extenders package” approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week.  The measure extends retroactively the majority of tax credits that expired at the end of the year.  In the House, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp is instead examining making certain tax credits permanent rather than going through the annual extenders exercise.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending April 11


Week Ending April 11, 2014

This week in immigration reform: New reports document that the majority of the people deported under the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts have never committed a crime or only had minor infractions, such as traffic violations; President and CEO of NCLR Janet Murguía wrote in the National Journal that the deportation crisis is personal to Latinos; and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to encourage him to enforce and enhance the protection of immigrant families under the administration’s current prosecutorial discretion policy.

–The New York Times and TRAC talk deportation numbers. This Monday April 6th, the New York Times published a report based on internal government records that demonstrates who gets deported. Two-thirds of the 2 million deportations involved people who had committed minor infractions, traffic violations, or who had no criminal record at all. On the other hand only 20%, (394,000 cases) involved people convicted of drug-related offenses or more serious crimes. TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, also analyzed records released by ICE regarding the 2.3 million deportations. Their findings indicated that for FY 2013 only 12% of all deportees had been found to have committed a serious offense. More than half of the total 2.3 million had charges regarding immigration or traffic violations.

–President and CEO of NCLR, Janet Murguía tells both political parties that for Latinos, the deportation crisis is personal. Janet Murguía offered insight into the devastation deportations have on families and children. Murguía stressed the need to hold both the President and Speaker Boehner accountable. In the past two years 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen children have been deported posing taxing challenges on younger Americans. Murguía also mentions the repercussions for both parties in the short and long term if there is no personal, real, or meaningful action to mend our broken immigration system.

–The Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. On April 9th members of the Hispanic Caucus and Jeh Johnson engaged in a discussion over prosecutorial discretion efforts previously carved out by the administration. The CHC also presented the Secretary with a memo detailing measures the Obama administration could take under the current law to protect immigrants and American families from deportations.

NCLR and Affiliates in Action

  • Florida: On Monday and Tuesday, NCLR Affiliate, RCMA and NCLR staff visited state lawmakers in Tallahassee to encourage the passing of legislation that would help Florida youths. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of RCMA and others, the in-state tuition bill (SB 1400) has passed the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee. The bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the Senate floor. ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic1Five RCMA 8th grade Latina students join Sen. Garcia (FL-36) as they lobby for KidCare/Medicaid Expansion, In-state Tuition and drivers licenses for DACA recipients
  •  Across the Country: NCLR Affiliates TODEC, El Pueblo, and CARECEN participated in rallies to stop deportations this past weekend in California, Raleigh NC, and Washington D.C. ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic2About 20 youths from El Pueblo and the Youth Power Program protesting against f deportations in Raleigh, North Carolina.ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic3
    NCLR Affiliate, TODEC rallying against deportations April 5th in California

A Second Chance for Justice

By Leticia Tomas Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

ModelsForChange_1Several years ago I attended a dedication ceremony for a new grant-funded program that would enable young men to acquire valuable skills in the trades: electrical work, plumbing, cabinetry, and others. As I walked around the cavernous room looking at the impressive displays of student work, I had to remind myself that I was at a juvenile detention center and that the 20 students in brown jumpsuits had been incarcerated for various offenses. What was not so difficult to forget were the faces of the incarcerated—all young men of color.

At this particular facility the statistics painted a bleak picture: over half of the young men were Latino and nearly one-quarter were Black. Of those, as many as 40 percent were identified as special needs and 40 percent were English language learners. These statistics are not unique to this setting, but rather evident in national figures which show that Latinos represented nearly one-quarter of all juvenile offenders in a residential facility in 2011. In fact, research indicates that Hispanics are 16 percent more likely than their counterparts to be adjudicated delinquent, 28 percent more likely to be detained, and 43 percent more likely to be waived to the adult system. More recent research of national trends suggests that despite juvenile justice reforms in the last decade, young men of color are more likely to be remanded to secure facilities, thus composing the largest population under confinement.

How these high-school-aged youth landed in the detention center I can only imagine, as our conversations were limited to their projects, the courses they were taking to acquire new skills, and what they hoped to do with these skills. What we do know is that systems which aim to be fair, such as our education and criminal justice systems, can perpetuate and exacerbate challenges unique to Latino youth, who are at tremendous risk of failing academically and falling prey to dangerous social situations, including drug abuse and gang affiliation. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division make evident that Latino youth are more likely than their peers to be suspended and expelled from our schools. Such outcomes may be explained by overexposure to under-resourced, overcrowded schools with teachers and counselors who are often ill-equipped to address the unique academic, financial, cultural, and socioemotional challenges these students face daily.

Despite the bleak picture, however, there is reason for hope. The skill-building program in this California juvenile detention center provides youth with practical experiences that would yield gainful employment upon release or, for those returning to school, credits toward graduation. In Philadelphia, Men In Motion In the Community (MIMIC) offers guidance and assistance to Latino youth who are at risk of dropping out of school or having contact with the juvenile justice system. Across the country, the Models for Change initiative has spearheaded investments in key areas of reform for the Latino community, including aftercare, community-based solutions, and dual-status youth, to name a few. Above all, with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change aims to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and promote a more fair juvenile justice system.

Latinos in our country account for 16 percent  of the total population, and by 2035 one out of every three U.S. residents will be Latino. Today, 34 percent of Latinos are under the age of 18 and one in four students in K–12 schools in the U.S. is Latino. The future of our nation depends more on the potential of Latino children than ever before. While reform does not happen overnight, we can enact practices and funding mechanisms to support efforts that prevent our youth from engaging in risky behaviors, urging them to instead focus on academic and social pursuits that lead to safe, healthy, productive futures. For youth who are currently in the system, practitioners can implement high-quality educational and vocational programs that deliver skills applicable to the 21st-century workplace.

The focus must therefore be on educating young people and not always on incarcerating them. These kinds of programs support positive youth development, reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and facilitate the integration of youth back into our communities. However, it is imperative that community leaders and law enforcement work together to replace the image of a juvenile “justice” system that solely punishes with one that allows youth to correct their mistakes and envision a more hopeful future.

The young men I spoke with talked about becoming plumbers, carpenters, and electricians and even building their own homes. Others talked about the importance of reading their builder’s manual and how they had to improve their math and reading skills to get through their courses. Still others, who had never experienced academic success in a traditional setting but now have found it, talked about going to college for the very first time. These young men of color did not speak of reform or even change; they talked of second chances and new opportunities. Through reform, we can give them both in the name of justice.

A Bump in Students’ Wages Would Give Them the Break They Need

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Min_Wage_2_FINAL_72 DPIWe’re back for the second installment of our minimum wage truth-telling video blog series. This week, the focus is on how increasing the minimum wage would benefit working students. You might assume we’re only talking about teenagers, but the truth is:

  • The average age of minimum-wage workers is 35 years old.
  • Four out of five minimum-wage workers are at least 20 years old.
  • About 44 percent of minimum-wage workers have some college education.

In an effort to shed light on the fact that many working students are often their families’ primary breadwinner and have to balance work with investing in their future, we’re featuring GOAL Academy leadership staff in this week’s video.

GOAL Academy, an NCLR Affiliate, is a Colorado-based, tuition-free, public online charter school that serves mostly Latino students that are designated at-risk. On average, the students are in their late teens and early twenties, and come from low- and moderate-income families. Given the students’ limited educations, they are typically relegated to jobs that pay at or below the minimum wage. However, the students’ increasing need to work in order to cover basic living expenses weakens their ability to invest more time in their studies.

Students who work can’t afford to lose time in the classroom, given that low educational attainment impedes a large number of young workers—especially Latinos—from accessing full-time, well-paying jobs with career paths. In 2008, only 57.6 percent of Latino children who entered ninth grade completed high school with a regular diploma, compared to 78.4 percent  of White children and 82.7 percent  of Asian youth. Hispanics who enroll in postsecondary education often battle the astronomical costs of higher education, yet often receive less financial aid. This inequity puts an even greater burden on Latino college students either to finance their own education or to apply for student loans, or to drop out of college.

Raising the minimum wage would help ease the pressure on working students by allowing them to work fewer hours, earn more money, and not struggle to pay for basic living expenses like food. These workers, along with millions of others, are waiting on Congress to take action on raising the minimum wage. In light of the Senate delaying the vote on the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act” (S. 1737) once again this week, we want to hear from you. Tell us your minimum wage story!

I Have Nothing to Hide: Government Surveillance Does Not Concern Me

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR Policy Analysis Center

Photo: Mike M, Creative Commons

Photo: Mike M, Creative Commons

The old adage that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes is no longer entirely correct. With the advent of new and emerging technologies, we can add government surveillance to the list. Our daily activities are routinely tracked and our private information collected, sold, and shared without our knowledge or consent. It has also become common for federal and state governments to track our daily activities through the Internet, our cell phones, GPS devices, license plate scanners, and stingray technology.

Many Americans find government surveillance unacceptable and a clear violation of constitutional rights. A survey by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research found that a vast majority of participants, including Latinos, strongly agreed with the proposition: “I have nothing to hide, so government surveillance does not concern me.” The survey respondents also reasoned that, unlike private companies who track Internet users for profit, the government’s motivation is to protect the country from terrorists and criminals.

Assuming that crime prevention is justification for government surveillance, I wonder how many people in the “ I have nothing to hide” category would feel differently if instead of unwarranted Internet or phone surveillance, police officers routinely looked into people’s homes through unobstructed windows and opened doors as a way of monitoring criminal activity? What if police routinely entered homes to make sure no criminal activity was taking place? What if this practice was more common in Latino and Black neighborhoods? Most of us would find this type of unwarranted government behavior unacceptable, unconstitutional, and un-American. Yet, electronic government surveillance is as intrusive, and the criterion used to justify it just as broad. Electronic spying is simply a far more efficient way for our government to keep tabs on millions of people. But, unlike the hypothetical above where Fourth Amendment protections apply, the laws protecting Americans from electronic government spying have not kept up with the pace of technology and are weak at best.

Photo: Mike Licht

Photo: Mike Licht

Weak regulatory oversight coupled with technology that facilitates the secret collection of detailed information about a person or group should concern all Americans, but particularly Latinos, Blacks, and other vulnerable populations. Racial profiling remains a persistent challenge in minority communities, and high-tech surveillance heightens the risk of law enforcement discriminatory practices.

Most of us don’t have anything to hide from the government, but we should all be concerned about the potential harm of a government monitoring us for slip-ups, or for who we associate with. To be clear, law enforcement should be able to use technology that can help prevent terrorism and other crimes, but legal and regulatory safeguards are needed to protect against constitutional violations. Unregulated mass government surveillance of Americans runs counter to the values of a democracy and a country founded on the principles of liberty and freedom from government tyranny.