Making workplace better


Barbara L. Rogers was on maternity leave when her boss called her and asked her to return to work right away.

"I had a fit because my baby was only 2 months old; I planned to be out six months and was nursing on demand," said Ms. Rogers, secretary to the director of the U.S. Postal Service in Syracuse, N.Y.

"But my boss pointed out I would have no separation anxiety and could nurse whenever I needed to because my son would be only four doors away, down the hall. So I came back."

"Down the hall" is the Little Eagles Child Care Center, the first on-site child-care center in a U.S. postal facility. It was opened in 1988 by the Postal Service, the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers. The center is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and has weekend hours to serve all shifts.

Ms. Rogers' son now is 3 and still attends Eagles, for which the secretary, who earns $32,000 a year, pays $85 a week.

"Eagles is wonderful because it's the difference between my being able to work or not," said Ms. Rogers, an Eagles board member. "I can give 150 percent to my job because I know he's doing well -- and he's right here."

Despite bad news for employed women regarding salaries, education, occupational segregation and health benefits, the Eagles center is one of many bits of good news cited in "A More Promising Future: Strategies to Improve the Workplace," by Phyllis Fudell and Jennifer Watson (Wider Opportunities for Women, $17).

"Many people believe things are so bleak for employed women that there's nothing that can be done," said Cynthia Marano, executive director of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a non-profit, national women's employment organization based in Washington. "But our book shows that for every problem there are solutions in place -- and the organizations implementing them aren't going broke."

The Syracuse post office is one of three facilities cited in the category of "responding to needs of employees."

The other categories:

* Educating and training the work force. Included in this group is REAL Enterprises in Atlanta, a community-based program to help rural high school and college students in North and South Carolina and Georgia start their own businesses. The acronym stands for Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning. "The focus is on women and disadvantaged students," said Ms. Marano. "And it works -- students actually research, operate and own viable small businesses."

* Improving access to health insurance and other benefits. Among those cited are Hawaii's state health-care programs. In 1974, the state passed a prepaid health-care law that covers employees who work 20 hours or more.

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