Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Keeping the Pressure On in Wisconsin

Today, we celebrate victory at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals: The court ruled unanimously to uphold Milwaukee’s paid sick days ordinance, which sets a minimum floor of paid sick days for workers in the city. At a time when the news has been full of unthinkable stories out of Wisconsin – hard-fought rights being unfairly stripped from public employees while hundreds of thousands of people march in support of workers – this paid sick days victory is sweet.

Unfortunately, this victory could be short-lived. Legislators in Wisconsin have been fast-tracking Senate Bill 23 (Assembly Bill 41), which would nullify Milwaukee’s voter-approved – and now court validated – paid sick days law, usurp the rights of the city’s voters, and threaten workers’ health and labor laws at the local level. The bill was already passed by the Senate and will soon be considered by the Assembly. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th. Wisconsin residents can take action here.

In 2008, working families in Milwaukee spent countless hours fighting for a paid sick days law, circulating petitions, putting up yard signs and distributing educational materials to engage the community. In November of that year, more than two-thirds of the city’s voters overwhelmingly approved the law. Milwaukee became the third city in the nation to establish a paid sick days standard (along with San Francisco and Washington, D.C.), giving workers a few days each year to care for themselves or their loved ones without losing income or risking their jobs. Despite the clear will of the people, the business lobby in Milwaukee insisted on stalling the law by challenging it in court. This morning’s court decision should finally put an end to their anti-worker, anti-family tactics.

But now the Wisconsin legislature and the business lobby have set out to defeat Milwaukee’s law through other means. S.B. 23 (A.B. 41) would put the power to enact worker health and family leave laws in the hands of the Wisconsin state legislature alone, blocking counties, cities and towns from passing their own laws. Proponents wrongly claim it will create a more uniform and fair standard. In truth, the law will deny Milwaukee workers paid sick days and the right to maintain their family’s health and economic security.

Workers who don’t have access to paid sick time are forced to make impossible choices between paying their bills or putting food on the table, and the health of their family and the public. Take the Milwaukee bus driver who had to keep a bucket next to the driver’s seat when she had the stomach flu because she had no paid sick days and couldn’t afford to take a day off – much less lose her job – to recover. Or take the mother whose boss had her bring her seven-year-old daughter who was sick and contagious with pink-eye to work instead of staying home with her. These are the stories of just two of the 44 million workers in the U.S. without paid sick days – and they demonstrate the very real impact a lack of paid sick days can have on working families and the public’s health.

Fortunately, advocates and legislators in nearly 20 states and cities are pushing this year to enact paid sick days laws similar to Milwaukee’s. Bills in Philadelphia and Connecticut are moving swiftly toward enactment. Like the Milwaukee voters who voted in favor of a paid sick days standard, people all across the country recognize that everyone suffers when working families don’t have access to basic rights like job-protected paid sick time. We won’t give up in Wisconsin, or anywhere. In the end, we will get there.

Paid Sick Days Committee Victories in Connecticut and Philadelphia

The push for paid sick days took a significant step forward this week as lawmakers in Connecticut, Illinois and Philadelphia held public hearings on the impact that establishing a paid sick days standard could have on working families, businesses and public health. Committees in Connecticut and Philadelphia voted to advance paid sick days legislation. Amidst efforts to disempower workers elsewhere, the hearings and votes are encouraging signs that issues affecting working families have not been forgotten — and that progress is possible.

In Philadelphia, City Council members listened to nearly five hours of testimony on establishing a paid sick days standard in the city. Currently, 210,000 workers — about 40 percent of the city’s private-sector workforce — lack paid sick time. Bill No. 080474, the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces ordinance, would ensure that these workers can take time off to recover from their own illness, to care for a sick family member or to seek medical care. The Public Health and Human Services committee vote is a major victory for advocates and the city. Next stop: The full City Council.

In Connecticut, where Governor Dan Malloy made paid sick days part of his campaign, advocates held a press conference and rallied outside the Capitol in advance of Connecticut’s first hearing on Senate Bill 913, An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees. The hearing included powerful testimony on the legislation, which would provide access to earned paid sick time to about 257,000 workers in the state. The Labor Committee voted 6-5 to advance the legislation. Next stop: The Senate Judiciary Committee. Be sure to check out a new video from coalition member Half in Ten that features compelling stories from Connecticut workers and puts real faces on the need for a paid sick days standard in the state.

Also this week, Illinois legislators considered statewide paid sick days legislation. The state’s Senate Labor Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 128, the Healthy Workplace Act, and then held the bill for further consideration. In a state where 77 percent of the lowest-income workers lack paid sick time, the legislation would have a significant impact on Illinois’ working families.

There is no doubt that the action in these three states has made for a big week in the effort to ensure all working families in the United States have access to paid sick days. In this economy, there couldn’t be a more important time for working families to make their voices heard, especially in support of common-sense policies that are proven to have a positive effect on workers, businesses and our communities.

Here at PaidSickDays.org we will continue to keep you updated on what is happening around the country. Get or stay involved in your local campaign and be sure to spread the word. Together, we will keep the momentum going.