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We know the value of unions to working Americans: unionized workers make more money, have more access to pensions, receive better health insurance, and have safer workplaces.  Less known but equally critical is that unionized workers also receive more generous family-friendly benefits – union members are more likely to be in workplaces that promote a healthy and viable balance between work life and home life.  But what about union staff?

Working Mother recently released its rankings of the 100 Best Companies for family-friendly benefits and programs, and the National Education Association (NEA)was one of the winning companies.  The NEA, a union representing 3.2 million education professionals, was the only union to make the list.

Despite a struggling economy, the winning companies set the bar higher than ever before with a diverse range of work family benefits. NEA was awarded for its comprehensive package of benefits for union staff, including paid maternity and parental leave for newborns and newly adopted children, up to five days each year for parents and grandparents to participate in a child’s school activities, a back-up childcare program, telecommuting, and flexible work schedules.

Staff of mission-driven organizations like unions often work exhaustive hours for the cause, downplaying their own family concerns.  For a recent report UC Berkeley Labor Center and the Labor Project interviewed union organizers and found they face many problems balancing their own work and family responsibilities.  But as the Working Motherrankings highlight, unions can and should be family-friendly workplaces.

NEA Executive Director John Wilson, in response to the award said, “Our effectiveness and strength as an organization begins with our employees.”  All workers value work family benefits, and young workers in particular expect them. Union members, and the union staff who fight for their rights, need and deserve options for balancing work and family.   Unions are already leading the fight for work family legislation across the country; NEA’s winning policies show that unions can also be leaders in innovative work family benefits for their own staff.

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