Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day @ Microsoft: Help end paid leave discrimination

2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day @ Microsoft: Help end paid leave discrimination

For 29 years Microsoft did not celebrate MLK .JR Day as a paid holiday. Then on August 5 2015, Kathleen Hogan, Executive Vice President, Human Resources announced Microsoft was adding MLK Day to its list of paid holidays. That would allow the employees to 'take time to recharge and invest in ways that are meaningful to them'.  
I am part of a small group of so called temporary workers who have been working for years for Microsoft (via a supplier). In September 2014, we decided to unionize (a rarity in the high tech industry) to protest the fact that our supplier did not provide us with any paid leave, arguing we were not 'full time regular employees' despite our continuous full time years of service in the same Microsoft lab. Our demands found some support among Microsoft's leadership and on March 26 2015, Brad Smith announced that Microsoft would start requiring that its suppliers provide 'at least 15 days of paid time off per year' to their employees. This was widely reported in the media as a great and generous gesture on Microsoft's part: CEO Satya Nadella was invited at the White House as a champion of change and  I had my second of glory with sizable articles in the Seattle Times, the Washington Post and a few others. Unfortunately the 'at least 15 days of PTO' decision, as I noticed as soon as it was announced, does not include any specific paid leave for new parents and does not provide for any paid public holidays. Those are extremely significant gaps that maintain an unacceptable inequality between people working full time for Microsoft. They are also contrary to the terms of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, especially articles 7 (d)  that deals with paid public holidays and article 10.2 that states: "Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits." 50 years later, as this Convention was adopted in 1966, these benefits are still not required by Microsoft for all its suppliers. Although this Convention was never ratified by the US Senate, Microsoft voluntarily committed itself to implement all its content when they joined the UN Global Compact in 2006. That's ten years ago. What is preventing Microsoft to require its suppliers to provide now all their employees with the 10 paid public holidays Microsoft has selected and at least 4 weeks of paid parental leave (his own employees are given 12 weeks). It cannot be a lack of money, neither on Microsoft's part nor on the supplier's part. As President of Temporary Workers of America, I am presently the only voice talking publicly and repeatedly for the thousands of workers who are deprived each year of thousands of dollars they badly need by Microsoft and its suppliers. On this 2016 MLK Day I want to invite individuals and institutions, that own Microsoft's stock, to join our protest and ask Microsoft to respect its pledge to implement the labor rights that are part of the 1966 International Covenant.  Microsoft's shareholders can contact Microsoft's Directors by emailing them at: If you do that, please cc to us at Our intention is to organize and run a corporate social responsibility campaign until Microsoft makes the decision to respect the basic civil rights of their thousands of employees working for them via suppliers. Thank you in advance to those of you who join us in this effort and thank you for all the families that will benefit if we succeed.

Philippe Boucher
Author of The Other Microsoft.
PS: In my little book The Other Microsoft, I refer (pages 40, 41) to King's famous 'Letter from a Birmingham jail' of April 16, 1963. I invite you to read or reread it because it resonates so much with how I feel we are presently mistreated by Microsoft. I recently learned about 'All labor has dignity: King's Speeches on labor': when Dr.King was assassinated he was planning a march in support of sanitation workers and their union, protesting how they were discriminated compared to their white co-workers. Why would they go home unpaid if their workday was canceled because of the snow while their white counterparts got paid? Why is Microsoft finally giving MLK Day as a paid holiday only to half of its workforce? Why is Microsoft ignoring the total absence of paid parental leave for half its workforce?

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