In August, Netflix did a great thing. The company announced a new unlimited parental leave policy. The Los Angeles Times covered this, in “Netflix offers new parents ‘unlimited’ leave“:
Netflix said Tuesday it will allow new parents up to a year of paid time off, becoming one of the tech industry’s most generous major companies in offering parental leave.
The video streaming company hopes its flexible policy will help retain employees, Netflix Chief Talent Officer Tawni Cranz wrote in a blog post.
The policy will apply to mothers and fathers of newborns as well as adoptees. Employees can set their own schedules in the year after bringing babies into their families and their pay will continue as usual.
This was a big deal, and a great thing for new parents in the California office. The company received great PR coverage.
But there was a problem. The Netflix blog post failed to mention that the company had only offered this benefit to its already-well-paid salaried California “corporate” and “streaming” employees. The 500 or so hourly employees working at DVD distribution centers around the country as well as call center workers were not eligible. Of course, these were the very people who would need the benefit the most. This set up a two-tier system, where the already well-off got more, the regular workers not so much.
Progressive groups started organizing to publicly pressure the company to do something about this. Buzzfeed covered this in “Women’s Group Slams Netflix For Denying Poor Workers Benefits“:
UltraViolet, the women’s advocacy group behind high-profile campaigns targeting Reebok and the NFL, is pressuring Netflix to stop “leaving poor women out of parental leave.”
…In a press release today, UltraViolet said its 46,000 members are petitioning Netflix to “do the right thing”:
“Netflix is leaving workers who could benefit the most from a generous paid leave policy behind and that is offensive, said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet. “With childcare costs skyrocketing nationwide, hourly workers at Netflix need parental leave more urgently than ever. Two thirds of minimum wage earners are women. For that reason, women are watching Netflix right now to see if they do the right thing. We urge them to support all of the many working moms and dads who contribute to their success.”
Other progressive groups joined the fight to get benefits extended to all workers. Coworker.org launched a campaign enabling Netflix employees to tell their stories to the press about what it was like not having access to this Netflix benefit. Make It Work circulated petitions. The Working Families Party, NARAL and Democracy for America also got thousands of Netflix’s customers and others to sign petitions, hold call-in days, join social media actions and did in-person petition deliveries to Netflix headquarters.
Last week, Netflix announced it will now provide hourly employees with full paid parental leave. Bloomberg has the story, in “Netflix Expands Parental Leave Benefits for Hourly Employees“:
Netflix Inc. expanded parental benefits for hourly workers in its streaming, DVD and customer-service divisions, granting full pay for maternity leave and including paternity and adoptions as well.
Hourly employees in Netflix’s streaming operation will receive as many as 16 weeks at full pay for maternity, paternity and adoptions, the Los Gatos, California-based online TV network said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. For DVD-by-mail, it’s 12 weeks, and customer-service workers will be covered for 14 weeks.
The added benefits narrow the gap some between hourly employees and salaried streaming workers, who get up to one year off as new parents and can take as much vacation time as they see fit.
… “By joining together in advocating for change, Netflix employees and customers were able to persuade a major company to improve its paid parental leave benefits for hourly workers,” Tim Newman, campaigns director of one of the groups, Coworker.org, said in a statement. “While the new policy lags behind what employees petitioned for on Coworker.org — which was to provide hourly employees with the same paid parental leave benefits as salaried workers — it’s an important change that will impact many families.”
The company still has a two-tiered system for salaried vs. hourly employees, but hundreds of Netflix workers and their families are nonetheless better off than they would have been.
This is one more local progressive victory. Progressive groups have organized the grassroots to fight for and win increases in local minimum wages, receiving sick pay, the right to unionize and other important gains. It demonstrates the value of organizing working people, company by company, city by city, state by state.