Monthly Archive for April, 2012

Nothing to Sneeze At: State Activity Continues as Federal Support Grows

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen paid sick days efforts progress and make headlines in cities and states throughout the country –and support for the federal Healthy Families Act continues to grow in Congress.

In Hawaii, a bill that would guarantee some workers in the state the right to earn paid sick days passed the Senate. The bill’s progress is an exciting starting point for stronger legislation and a more vibrant campaign in the future. It’s encouraging to see groundwork being laid in a state where more than 40 percent of the private sector workforce doesn’t have paid sick days.

The paid sick days campaign in New York City continues to heat up. Earlier this month, two legislators who work on small business issues, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Councilwoman Diana Reyna, endorsed the paid sick days bill pending before the City Council. Velazquez is the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee and Reyna heads the New York City Council’s Committee on Small Business. Their support reflects the campaign’s growing momentum and the launch of its “Conscious Consumer, Conscious Business” initiative.

In Minnesota, where more than 845,000 private sector workers don’t have paid sick days, a group of former Jimmy John’s sandwich shop workers have secured a major victory in a legal battle sparked by the franchise’s failure to provide paid sick days. As the workers’ attorney explained, “The judge ruled these employees are well within their rights to petition their employer for paid sick days” and that “workers do have the right to speak out about their working conditions and health and safety risks.” The worker-activists who brought suit provide an inspiring example for all who believe that workers should not be forced to go to work sick.

And on the national level, support for the Healthy Families Act has increased to 109 co-sponsors. Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives have become co-sponsors since the start of year – four of them in just the last two months. They are: Representatives Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Steven Rothman (D-N.J.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.). We thank these members for recognizing that workers and their families need the common sense protections that the Healthy Families Act would provide.

State and local paid sick days activity continues, feeding national momentum and support. Stay tuned for more!

Public Health, Prevention and Paid Sick Days

It’s National Public Health Week – a time when the nation’s public health community unites around one aspect of public health to raise awareness and improve the health of the nation. This year, the focus is prevention. And there’s no doubt that paid sick days can play a key role in preventing the spread of illness and keeping our communities healthy.

It makes logical sense: If workers don’t have access to paid sick days when illness strikes, they end up going to work sick or sending sick children to school or day care. Many are forced to do so in order to protect their jobs and their families’ economic security. In fact, adults without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults with paid sick days to report going to work sick with a contagious illness. Workers without paid sick days are also more likely to forgo preventive care for themselves and their families.

To make matters worse, workers who have significant interaction with the public – such as those working in food service, child care and personal care – are among the least likely to have access to paid sick days. As a result, illness is often unnecessarily spread to other workers, customers and throughout communities.

During the H1N1 outbreak an estimated seven million people in the United States caught the flu from their co-workers. And people without paid sick days were at greater risk of being exposed to the virus. In 2008, an Ohio restaurant worker had no choice but to go to work sick and more than 500 people became violently ill. Just last year, an Olive Garden worker in North Carolina went to work with hepatitis; the Olive Garden, which is part of the mega-profitable Darden Restaurant Group, does not offer paid sick days to its employees. Sadly, these are not isolated cases – and they were preventable.

Workers with paid sick days are able to care for themselves and sick family members, ultimately reducing contagion and preventing illness. This is good for the health of working families, businesses and our communities – and that’s why prominent public health organizations have joined our national paid sick days coalition.

Paid sick days standards guarantee workers’ access to the earned paid sick days they need while significantly benefiting and protecting the public health. As this National Public Health Week draws to a close, let’s remind our state and federal lawmakers of that important point.

For more on the impact a lack of paid sick days has on public health, check out this fact sheet.