Monday, June 29, 2009

A Happy Surprise

I wrote before about how my district has two completely different maternity leave policies for those who adopt a child vs. those who birth one. Women who give birth can use up to 40 paid sick days toward a maternity leave. Women who adopt can't use any paid time.

I brought the issue to the attention of my union because it was pointed out to me by the administration that the reason I was denied was due to contract language.* Most involved in the union were completely unaware of the distinction that our contract made between adoption and birth. The policy has been there for a while, but few have tested it and all believed our administration had the discretion to offer more leave to teachers if they chose. There was a lot of outrage and disbelief and many apologies.

Well, this was a negotiation year and I just found out that our new contract will include a maternity leave provision for adoption that is exactly the same as that for childbirth. We're not getting much else due to the state of the economy, but this was one language change that our union pushed for and that our school committee completely supported.

What does this mean for me? It means that if DH and I get a placement during the school year, I'll be able to take 8 weeks of paid leave, using 40 of my 120-odd sick days. It means that we won't lose two months of income and DH won't have to work like a dog to make up for that. It means that I won't feel like a second-class citizen compared to my coworkers just because I'm adopting. It means less resentment, less jealousy. It means I will get to spend time with our new child, easing the transition, without worrying about money. It feels like a validation of our way to build a family.

Of course, if we get a placement this summer then I won't have the opportunity to use any of this paid time since I'm already off, but that's a trade I'd be more than willing to make.

*I know there are lots of different opinions about the advantages/disadvantages of unions, but I've always been a union supporter. It's a result of my working-class background. However, I am not someone who has ever worked only to a contract. I take pride in my profession and have always gone well above and beyond what was required, as do all the teachers I know. That's why it felt even more like a slap in the face when the contract language was used as a reason to deny me paid leave.


Beautiful Mess said...

Good for you for making yourself heard! YAY for having it changed, too! I think it should be fair across the board, it's a child's *and parents'* welfare at steak here. Good work!

RB said...

That's really awesome Karen. My district allows 5 days off for an adoption, and those 5 days come out of your sick days. It's completely discriminatory. I'm happy to hear this news for you :)

Lost in Space said...

Huge smile on my face. I am so glad you brought this to their attention and were able to get it fixed to just the way it should be. Go you!!

What a huge relief to have this in place come fall.

Mrs.X said...

That is wonderful news. What a burden lifted. Congratulations.

Claudia said...

This is such FABULOUS news. Really, really glad to hear it. As if adopting isn't hard enough...! I'm glad this one thing has just been made a bit easier :)

WaterBishop said...

Congrats!! I am so glad it changed. Lovely.

Barb said...

FUCKIN' HURRAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D!!!!!

Having been in and out of a union, there are definite pros and cons. When you're in a position like ours where it's very easy to abuse the worker, sometimes unions are necessary even if it means having some of the downsides. It also depends on your management I think.


Me said...

I am so glad. The previous contract differentiation was 100% unacceptable.