Standing Up to Walmart, and Other News From A Better Balance

Headlines from the Frontlines — May 2017

A Better Balance

“WALMART: SUPERCENTER” by alpha geek is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
ABB Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Walmart 
On May 15th, we filed a national class action lawsuit, along with our partners, on behalf of thousands of pregnant workers discriminated against by Walmart. The complaint alleges that Walmart’s policies discriminate against pregnant workers like our client Talisa Borders, who asked to stay off tall ladders and avoid heavy lifting while pregnant and working at Walmart, but instead was pushed onto unpaid leave. Despite amendments to its policy in 2014, Walmart continues to explicitly exclude pregnancy while providing accommodations for workers with disabilities and on-the-job injuries. We won’t stop until no pregnant Walmart worker has to choose between her health and her job.
Rallying and Testifying for Workers in New York 
In April, ABB testified at three separate hearings to argue for stronger legal protections, and stronger enforcement of the laws, on behalf of workers in New York who struggle to support their families while also providing care. First, we testified before the New York City Council Committee on Women’s Issues in support of legislation to promote gender and racial equality in New York City and make the municipal government a model employer for the private sector. The next day, ABB offered expert testimony at a joint hearing sponsored by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, to address the state of workers’ rights in New York City. Workers and advocates from across the five boroughs participated in the fully bilingual hearing, and ABB testified on the pressing need for strong enforcement of existing laws, such as the Earned Sick Time Act, as well as passage of new protections such as those proposed in the Fair Work Week package to address unpredictable and unfair scheduling practices. Finally, ABB testified at a hearing before the New York City Council Small Business Committee on potential changes to the penalties required by a variety of city laws. We also rallied with fellow advocates on May Day in support of immigrant and workers rights.
Victory for Working Famlies in Georgia
Georgia Governor Deal signed the Georgia Family Care Act into law by on May 8, 2017, after the bill passed the Georgia Legislature with strong bipartisan support. The law permits workers in Georgia who receive paid sick days to use that time to care for their family members in addition to themselves. This victory is a powerful example of the strength of strategic, persistent advocacy, and shows that success in support of working families is possible, even in a Southern state like Georgia where worker protections are often difficult to come by. A Better Balance provided support to advocates in the campaign’s early years and was instrumental in working with the coalition to expand the bill’s family definition to include tax dependents, in addition to children, spouses, grandchildren, grandparents, or parents.
More State Wins for Pregnant Workers 
We have seen significant progress for pregnant workers at the state level in the past month. Vermont became the 19th state to provide stronger protections for pregnant workers when Governor Scott signed their Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law on May 4th. ABB provided technical support and testimony to advance the bill. Next door in Massachusetts, the House voted unanimously to pass a similar bill that ABB has been advising advocates on closely since 2014. Across the country, Washington State’s legislature also passed a PWFA bill that now awaits the governor’s signature. This continued momentum puts further pressure on Congress to take up the federal PWFA, which was re-introduced last week with bi-partisan support in both chambers.
Bans on Salary History Advance in New York  
Low wages in the past can lock workers into low wages in the future and perpetuate gender and race-based wage gaps. That is why ABB has been working on legislation in New York City and at the State level to prevent employers from relying on or inquiring into an applicant’s past salary. We were in Albany earlier this month to speak at a press conference in support of a statewide salary history bill we helped to draft and are leading the charge to pass this session. And on May 4th, we attended the ceremony at City Hall where Mayor de Blasio signed into law a similar bill that ABB supported with close input on language and revisions, as well as testimony, on its path to passage.
Voices from the Clinic 
“Once I felt so sick that I did not have the strength to go to work as I was very sick. As any employee would do, I called in sick and my employer suspended me for a week. My employer even questioned the veracity of my situation. Thanks to a friend who helped me to find help, I found you [ABB]. You [ABB] guided me and I was able to return to work right away. Please do not be silent, look for help, we are people and as such we need respect, not injustice.”
–Yorkshiris Paulino