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In June, the group published Left Out, a report that called out companies, including Starbucks, for having inequitable leave policies; publications like the Washington Post and Slate ran with the story. Photograph by Jeremy M. Turnover of those skilled employees is becoming a greater concern—hence the better benefits. In protest, Tifft last December filed a shareholder resolution calling on Walmart to evaluate the risks inherent in providing unequal paid leave. An important swath of corporate America has reached a tipping point on family leave seemingly overnight. She made the same ask in the arena in a three-minute speech. When it partners with employee groups, it helps them identify workers who are willing to speak up and provides them with research, toolkits, template policy proposals, and coaching on how to approach management.

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Advocates see the Walmart and Starbucks actions as the beginning of an even bigger domino effect in family-leave benefits—regardless of who gets credit for pushing over the first tiles. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, passed 25 years ago, provides for only 12 weeks of unpaid leave and only for employees at larger companies with longer tenure. Tifft says the company has strayed from its roots: The Zevin group had little leverage: When Walmart broadened its family-leave policies, CEO Doug McMillon cited the recently passed corporate tax cut as their primary driver. Starbucks made a move before things escalated. The new wrinkle came in September—when the Zevin investor group filed what it says is the first-ever shareholder proposal related to paid leave. At the time, birth and adoptive mothers at Starbucks stores received six weeks of fully paid leave—but fathers were left out. The bigger takeaway, says Arjuna managing partner Natasha Lamb: This summer, the Zevin group launched a campaign to persuade four major employers to change their family-leave policies: In June, the group published Left Out, a report that called out companies, including Starbucks, for having inequitable leave policies; publications like the Washington Post and Slate ran with the story. The company announced in January that, going forward, parents of both genders would receive six weeks of paid parental leave. But Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of the Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance, an organization that helps boards of directors improve corporate practices, points out that resolutions from smaller players can become a major nuisance if they receive media attention. A study by consulting firm BCG, for example, found evidence that paid-leave policies were helping companies boost employee retention, reduce turnover costs, and diversify their leadership. That matters because women still shoulder most child-rearing and caregiving duties in the U. Intel was the first to do so; seven others, including Apple , Amazon , Google , and Facebook , quickly followed suit. Paid family leave for all working Americans. Lange for Fortune Meet the Activists Leading the Fight for Paid Family Leave An unlikely coalition of investors, blue-collar workers and labor organizers is scoring some big wins. In protest, Tifft last December filed a shareholder resolution calling on Walmart to evaluate the risks inherent in providing unequal paid leave. And other service-economy giants quickly fell in line: Still, as a shareholder, Davis, who goes by Cat, had a right to speak. One of her goals is to change public perception about what constitutes comprehensive family leave. An important swath of corporate America has reached a tipping point on family leave seemingly overnight. Between them, the companies involved employ about 2. As jobs, thanks to automation, become less about stocking shelves and more about high-touch customer service, Walmart needs associates that it can train and retain. She does now, thanks to questions from and reporting by the media.

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4 comments

  1. But beneath the veneer of press releases is a years-long, dedicated effort—led by investors, coordinated by activists, and implemented by employees themselves.

  2. That matters because women still shoulder most child-rearing and caregiving duties in the U. Paid family leave for all working Americans.

  3. Intel was the first to do so; seven others, including Apple , Amazon , Google , and Facebook , quickly followed suit.

  4. But Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of the Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance, an organization that helps boards of directors improve corporate practices, points out that resolutions from smaller players can become a major nuisance if they receive media attention.

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