Yearly Archive for 2010

An Important Step toward Economic Security for Women of Color

We often talk about the importance of a paid sick days standard for families’ economic security and our public health—but paid sick days are also an issue of basic fairness. That was a key topic at Monday night’s panel discussion on the disproportionate impact the lack of paid sick days has on low-income communities and women of color. The event was hosted by the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University.

It was a lively discussion that underscored the appalling fact that tens of millions of workers in the United States don’t have a single paid sick day. These workers risk their economic security when illness strikes or family emergencies occur. Women of color have it even tougher. They’re more likely to hold jobs that don’t have paid sick days. In addition, women of color are consistently paid less than the national average—and are more likely to be both the primary caregiver and the main breadwinner for their families.

Particularly in this economy, with unemployment high and money and jobs scarce, women of color simply can’t afford to take time off work to meet their families’ health needs without the protection of paid sick days.

Monday night’s discussion made clear that for women of color, who already face economic inequality and health disparities, paid sick days are more important than ever. We need to do more to highlight the real-world effects of our nation’s failure to adopt paid sick days on these communities. We’re excited to see the results of important research the Women of Color Policy Network is doing on this issue.

We face a lot of challenges, but we must continue the fight for economic security and justice for all American families.

Paid Sick Days Champion Wins Connecticut Governorship

Dan Malloy, former mayor of Stamford, Connecticut, and staunch supporter of paid sick days, was elected governor of Connecticut earlier this month — demonstrating the importance of paid sick days to working families in Connecticut, and the power the issue can have in an election. Governor-elect Malloy has argued that paid sick days are a basic right “that should be afforded to any working person,” including hourly employees. He made paid sick days a key issue in the Democratic primary and emphasized the issue again at the end of his general election campaign (read more of Malloy’s statements on the importance of paid sick days here).

Malloy’s governorship, along with the history of paid sick days legislation in the state legislature, positions Connecticut to be the first state in the nation to pass a paid sick days law — paving the way for other states throughout the country. Each house of Connecticut’s General Assembly has demonstrated support for paid sick days by passing paid sick days legislation in previous sessions. Connecticut advocates have been calling for a statewide standard that would allow workers to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. Governor-elect Malloy’s victory and unwavering support for paid sick time make these standards — and a brighter future for workers in Connecticut — closer than ever to becoming reality.

To learn more about Connecticut’s paid sick days campaign and get involved, visit

To find out about paid sick days campaigns in your state, check out our our interactive map.

UPDATE: Speaker Quinn Won’t Move on NYC Paid Sick Time Act

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s decision to oppose the New York City Paid Sick Time Act — despite a supermajority in the City Council that is in favor of the bill — is incredibly disappointing.

Bowing to scare tactics and despite evidence to the contrary, Quinn’s decision is a costly one for more than one million workers in New York City who do not have a single paid sick day, including most employees in the food service industry and most low-wage workers. Workers without paid sick days are forced to put their jobs and economic security at risk every time they need to take time off to recover from illness or care for a sick family member.

The Paid Sick Time Act would address this problem, and the bill’s lead sponsor Councilwoman Gale Brewer pledges to continue the fight.

Heard on the Hill: The Healthy Families Act Promotes Economic Security & Public Health

As Members of Congress campaign for votes at home, the National Partnership for Women & Families and two of our key allies have been hard at work educating Congressional staff about the public health and economic security case for paid sick days policies.

On September 30, the National Partnership and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) were honored to sponsor a House of Representatives briefing hosted by the always-compelling Representative Rosa DeLauro, a longtime champion of the Healthy Families Act. Sticking around Washington after Congress adjourned to speak to the standing-room-only crowd, DeLauro vowed to fight to pass the Healthy Families Act in the 112th Congress.

The briefing included the release of ROC’s new report Serving While Sick, the largest study of U.S. restaurant workers ever undertaken. This groundbreaking research finds that nearly 90 percent of all restaurant workers report having no paid sick days, and that over 63 percent report having cooked or served food while sick. That means your coffee, donut, salad, or sandwich was likely to have been handled by someone suffering from an illness.

To make the point that paid sick days help businesses’ bottom lines, Holly Howard, a restaurateur from Brooklyn, spoke. Howard said that since her restaurant, Egg, started offering paid sick days, its turnover rate is just 30 percent, compared to the 200 percent industry standard. Worker turnover costs the restaurant about $1000 per employee, so low turnover saves a lot of cash.

On October 5, the National Partnership and MomsRising co-sponsored a Senate briefing to demonstrate why paid sick time matters to the health and economic security of families. MomsRising presented the videojournal of one of its members, “Corby,” who explained that she faces disciplinary action if her company finds that she used a sick day to care for a sick child, and shared stories from its members’ story book. Tom W. Smith from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago presented survey findings showing overwhelming support for a law that provides access to earned paid sick days —and troubling data about workers’ increased likelihood of going to work sick, sending a sick child to school, or using an ER instead of a primary care doctor when they lack access to paid sick days.

Now is the time to act. During Congressional recess, tell your Members of Congress what Americans already know: a paid sick days law helps workers, helps families, and helps business. Everyone gets sick, but not everyone has time to get better. We can’t afford to keep risking our health and workers’ economic security by waiting much longer.

Paid Sick Days – On Hold for Too Long

Throughout the long, hot summer—despite the veto-proof majority in the New York City Council, despite the endless terrible experiences of workers who’ve been forced to work sick, despite the loads of testimony in favor of the Paid Sick Time Act—New York’s proposed paid sick days law has remained in limbo. The Council was awaiting the results of an unrepresentative business-side study that—as we now know—used deeply flawed methodology to produce absurd results. In the meantime, more than one million New Yorkers are still without paid sick days, forced to put their jobs and economic security at risk every time they need to take a day off to recover from illness or care for a sick family member.

But now, two new studies provide solid evidence that New Yorkers need a paid sick days law and that such a law would not harm job growth or business growth. In contrast to the flawed business study, previously unpublished Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey (NCS) data for the New York metropolitan area provide a realistic picture—and demonstrate the need for the City Council to act. For New Yorkers, the good news in the NCS data is that the rate of paid sick days access among private sector workers in the New York metropolitan area is higher than the national average (73% compared to 62% nationally). Yet behind the 73% number, there are huge gaps in access to paid sick days by income level, industry type, and firm size. Only 37% of workers in the bottom wage quartile have paid sick days, compared to 84% in the top wage quartile; little more than half of private industry service workers (54%) have paid sick days, compared to 86% of management and professional workers. And only 62% of workers in firms with fewer than 100 employees have paid sick days, compared to 87% in firms of 500 or more.

The Paid Sick Time Act would bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. Yet business associations opposing paid sick days continue to argue that the business community cannot bear the cost. They have gone so far as to claim that if it is passed, companies will leave the city. A new report from the Drum Major Institute (DMI) which studies the employment impacts in San Francisco after the city passed its own paid sick days bill three years ago, utterly discredits this claim.

DMI found that not only was there no negative impact from San Francisco’s paid sick days law, but that in the last three years employment growth in San Francisco has been stronger than in neighboring counties that do not have a law. The number of businesses in the city has grown as well. In fact, DMI notes, “Business growth was greater in San Francisco than in neighboring counties for both small and large businesses and in the industries widely considered to be most impacted by paid sick leave: retail and food service.”

If the New York City Council weighs this evidence fairly and impartially, it will conclude that passing the Paid Sick Time Act is good not only for workers, but also for businesses and the City’s economy. Tell the New York City Council to bring the Paid Sick Time Act to a vote now.

Call Speaker Quinn at (212) 788-7210 or write to her and other New York City leaders here.

Pennsylvania Paid Sick Days Advocates Working Hard During the Dog Days

While many of us spend time in August vacationing at the beach or in the mountains, Pennsylvania advocates took a trip to their state capitol in Harrisburg — to push for a state paid sick days law. Today, the Pennsylvania House Labor Relations Committee held a long-awaited hearing on H.B. 1830, the Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces Act. The proposed paid sick time law would allow Pennsylvania’s workers to earn up to 6.5 days of paid sick time annually to take care of their own or a family member’s illness or to seek preventive health care. Survivors of domestic violence would be able to use sick time to obtain medical or legal help or to seek relocation services.

The Committee heard testimony from advocates and experts, including representatives of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and WOMEN’S WAY, and from Pennsylvania workers. The Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, which is backing H.B. 1830, held a press conference prior to the hearing with the bill’s legislative sponsor, Representative Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny).

If you live in Pennsylvania, take a moment to contact your state representatives to ask them to support the bill. After today’s high-profile hearing — and hearing from state activists — legislators will be hard-pressed to put off action on paid sick days.

It’s amazing what can be done during the dog days of August!

The View from Capitol Hill

In my job, I get to explain the entire narrative of paid sick days to our nation’s lawmakers and their staff. It’s a rather simple task because most people intuitively get it — and often they have an experience to share.

The other day, as I walked into one of the House of Representatives office buildings, I chatted briefly with a Capitol police officer, whom I see whenever I am running in for meetings. After we exchanged hellos, he asked me what issue I was working on. I told him that I was working to help establish a basic standard of paid sick days so that working people aren’t forced to choose between caring for their health or their children’s health, and losing a paycheck or even their jobs.

He nodded and advised me to tell Members of Congress about a mother he met a few years earlier. She was there to talk to Members of Congress about her son, who had died from an untreated dental abscess — a death that could have easily been prevented if the boy had access to health care and his mother had time off from work to get him the care he needed.

I’m always so touched when people share their personal stories and insights with me. And, speaking for the hundreds of other advocates who work on this issue, we carry these stories with us. They don’t just inform our messaging — they are the message. The reality is that nearly two in five private-sector workers (39 percent) don’t have a single paid sick day to recover from common, short-term illnesses.

In other words, for nearly 40 million of us, waking up with a fever and sore throat or needing to throw up will lead to anxiety not only about our health but about our financial security. Should I go to work even though I’m sick because I need a paycheck and cannot afford to lose my job?

Without a basic workplace standard of paid sick days, two in five of us are face a terrible choice: do we respect the public’s health by staying home when sick and lose pay and risk our jobs, ordo we go to work sick so we can pay the bills and keep food on the table but risk spreading a contagious illness to others. Swift Congressional action to pass the Healthy Families Act, which allows workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year, would eliminate this forced choice.

This Congress has made progress on the Healthy Families Act. Both the House and the Senate have held numerous hearings on the issue, and we have more cosponsors on the bill than ever.

But we’re not there yet. Working people want to be responsible employees and family members. They want to be conscientious community members. The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to be all of the above. The legislation would establish a minimum labor standard that guarantees workers the ability to earn paid, job-protected time off for at least seven days a year to recover from illness or to care for a sick family member. It would ensure that working families don’t risk their financial security to do what is right for their own health and the well-being of their workplaces, schools and communities. And, it would protect the public health by allowing ill people to stay home to recover and avoid spreading illness.

Yet, there is more to be done. As we approach another flu season, as our nation’s children go back to school and as our caregiving responsibilities for older relatives expand, one thing is certain: working people need the economic security and job stability provided by a basic workplace standard of paid sick days, especially as millions continue their paycheck-to-paycheck struggles in this fractured economy.

There isn’t much time left before Congress adjourns. We need to make sure that Members hear more stories and insights on the need for paid sick days. More than 150 women’s, workers’ and health organizations are working together to support the Healthy Families Act. We need your help too.

NYC’s horses get time off…will the City’s workers?

Yesterday, advocates in New York City rallied in favor of paid sick days legislation next to the carriage horses in Central Park.

What’s the connection to the horses? It’s because in April, the New York City Council voted to give city carriage horses five weeks of annual vacation — and yet, after two hearings and ample time for study, the City Council has yet to vote on the New York City Paid Sick Time Act, which would give paid time off to sick humans.

Even the horses look perplexed at the vote’s hold-up.


The Paid Sick Time Act currently has a veto-proof majority of support in the Council (36 of the Council’s 51 members are co-sponsors, including the Chair of the Labor Committee), but Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not yet allowed the bill to be brought to the floor. The legislation would allow workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every thirty hours worked, up to nine days per year for workers in larger businesses and up to five days per year for workers in smaller businesses. The paid sick days could be used when a worker or a worker’s child or close relative is ill or needs routine medical care.

The Central Park rally was sponsored by A Better Balance, Make the Road New York, Restaurant Opportunities Center New York, and the Working Families Party, who lead the coalition supporting the Paid Sick Time Act.

Paid Sick Days: The Gift Working Dads Need

The traditional Father’s Day gifts are a new tie or a set of golf clubs (and those silly cards that suggest all dads care about are wearing ties and playing golf — not true!). But if we really want to thank our dads for all the times they’ve been there for us, then there’s no better gift than one that allows all fathers to be there for their children: a paid sick days law. Although golf clubs might be more fun, what’s a better, lasting gift than giving dads time off work to hold their toddler’s hand at the doctor or stroke their kindergartener’s brow during a bout of the flu?

Every message society sends about modern dads is positive. We want dads to be there for their kids, and yet our public policies haven’t kept pace. Over 40 million workers in the United States — many of them parents — don’t have paid sick days they can use to take care of themselves or their families. They simply don’t have the option of taking time off from work to stay home with a sick child, to take a child to the doctor, or even to take care of their own medical needs. If they take time off, they’re under the threat of being disciplined or fired. And for many parents, that’s a choice they can’t afford.

This Father’s Day, honor your dad by taking action on paid sick days — support the Healthy Families Act or join a local campaign. In a nation that prides itself on family values, we need to do a better job of valuing our families.

New York State of Mind

Advocates in New York City had reason to celebrate today: New York City Councilman and Labor Committee Chairman James Sanders signed on as the 36th cosponsor of the Paid Sick Time Act.

Chairman Sanders’ support came on the same day as public health experts and elected officials came together at New York University Law School for a briefing about why paid sick days and paid family leave are important public health measures. The briefing was hosted by A Better Balance, the New York State Paid Family Leave Coalition, and the Public Health Association of New York City.

The public health event was also sponsored by: American Cancer Society, Center for Children’s Initiatives, Children’s Defense Fund, Community Healthcare Network, Community Service Society, Ethical Culture Society, GMHC, Institute for Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Legal Momentum, Make the Road NY, National Organization for Women-NYC, National Organization for Women-NYS, NYC Central Labor Council, National Physicians Alliance, NYS AFL-CIO, NYS Nurses Association, NYU Law Women, NY Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Public Health Solutions, Raising Women’s Voices, Restaurant Opportunities Center NY (ROC), Women’s City Club of NY, and the Working Families Party.