Women Need Free-Market Solutions

Regulation, Unions Are Not the Answer, According to NCPA

DALLAS (May 15, 2002) -- The National Center for Policy Analysis' (NCPA) Women in the Economy project has compiled in-depth research about women's need for flexible work environments, concluding that governments and labor unions will not prompt necessary workplace reforms. The findings by the Women in the Economy project are consistent with research reported earlier by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), showing that low-income working mothers have the least flexible schedules and those who earn more have greater flexibility. However, the NCPA's studies draw radically different conclusions. "Government regulation and labor union intervention will not result in greater flexibility for women in the workplace," said Celeste Colgan, director of the Women in the Economy project. "In fact, both groups recently have blocked these reform efforts."

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) overtime regulations limit work arrangements that accommodate worker's diverse needs.
  • Many unions have blocked reform efforts, ostensibly to protect workers, but their actions retain negotiating power for workers in inflexible work environments.

The EPI report claims that a competitive market will not respond to workers' needs. However, the same EPI report acknowledges that "...about 40 percent of American establishments now offer flexible hours...and another 15 percent either have plans to do so, or are considering it." In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management recently reported that companies offering flexible scheduling jumped to 64 percent from 56 percent four years ago. "The most obvious examples of the success of flexible work schedules occur among federal employees who are exempt from FLSA requirements and mostly free of union negotiation," said Denise Venable, research assistant for the NCPA's Women in the Economy project. In May, 1997, 46.5 percent of full-time hourly federal employees worked a compressed schedule. These reforms would give private sector workers the same opportunities as federal government employees:

  • A biweekly work schedule option-allows employees to work 80 hours over a two-week period in any combination.
  • Flexible credit-hours-allows any hours more than 40 worked in one week to be saved and used later toward paid leave.
  • Compensatory time and a half off-in lieu of overtime pay.

"Free market solutions empower working women, foster cooperation and fairness, and champion individual workplace rights," Venable added.