Monthly Archive for May, 2012

An Underhanded Threat to Working Families in Louisiana and Throughout the Country

Cross-posted from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

By Melissa Flournoy, President and CEO of Louisiana Progress, and Vicki Shabo, Director of Work and Family Programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Over the past year, some workers and their families have rested a little easier knowing they will be able to recover from illness or help a family member do so without sacrificing much-needed income. That’s because, since this time last year, lawmakers in Connecticut and Seattle joined with workers, advocates and business owners to become the first state and the fourth city to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days.

These victories have shown that progress for working families is possible, particularly when it comes to common sense policies like paid sick days that benefit workers, families, businesses and the economy. That’s why, today, there are promising paid sick days legislation and campaigns in more than 20 states and cities around the nation.

But opponents of paid sick days also bolstered their efforts in the last year – and Louisiana is their current target. The latest tactic is to strip local authorities of their right to pass basic workplace protections like paid sick days through state-level “preemption” legislation. These bills are underhanded and dangerous.

We saw this tactic in action in Wisconsin last year when the state legislature preempted Milwaukee’s popular, voter-approved paid sick days measure. It was a direct denial of local democracy and took away a law that would have done a lot to meet the needs of the city’s working families. Hundreds of thousands of workers in Milwaukee – and throughout Wisconsin – remain without paid sick days, and local authorities in Wisconsin now have their hands tied.

The Louisiana state legislature may take the same harmful action before the state’s legislative session ends this week. The preemption bill, Senate Bill 521, would eliminate the right of Louisiana’s cities and parishes to even consider paid sick days legislation. The state Senate approved the measure 37-0 without any real debate and the state House could vote on it at any minute, moving it ever closer to becoming state law.

More than 600,000 workers in Louisiana don’t have the right to earn paid sick days to recover from common illnesses, care for their families or get necessary preventive care. Working women, who are often their families’ primary caregivers and sole or co-breadwinners, face impossible choices between their own health and the health of their families when illness strikes if they don’t have this basic right. Low-wage workers and those in the service, hospitality and restaurant industries are particularly vulnerable because very few have paid sick days through their employers and their families too often already live on the brink of financial disaster. If S.B. 521 becomes law, cities and parishes in Louisiana will lose the chance to give them the support and protection they need.

Louisiana lawmakers must not deny working families the security they need to be good workers and good family members. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R – Lake Charles) and all members of the Louisiana House have a chance to take a stand and reject this dangerous and harmful bill. Working families in the state will suffer if they fail to do so.

Louisiana Progress is a nonpartisan organization which encourages citizens across the political spectrum to promote effective public policy that moves Louisiana forward without leaving fellow citizens behind. We advocate for policies that strengthen the middle class, protect the less advantaged, and equalize opportunity for Louisiana’s working families.

The National Partnership for Women & Families leads the national paid sick days coalition. The nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group is dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.

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UPDATE: Senate Bill 521 passed the Louisiana House 90-4 on Thursday, May 31st. It is now in the hands of Governor Bobby Jindal. If Governor Jindal doesn’t veto the bill, it will become law. Contact the governor today to make sure he knows what is at stake for Louisiana families and the importance of stopping this dangerous bill.

 

As Older Americans Month Draws to a Close, Let’s Not Forget the Older Adults and Caregivers Who Need Us

Vicki Shabo, Director of Work and Family Programs

Cross-posted from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

May is Older Americans Month, a time to honor and show appreciation for the older adults in our lives and our communities. But it’s also a time to reflect on their needs and the needs of their caregivers. Older adults – both those still in the workforce and those cared for by working adult children or professional caregivers – would benefit greatly from family friendly policies that honor workers’ commitments at home and on the job. Paid sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance are chief among these policies.

An increasing number of older adults are working well past traditional retirement age. Today, about 30 percent of adults over age 65 are employed. The economy and deflated retirement savings have forced many to stay in the workforce. Yet our workplace policies have not adapted. Older adults are more likely than others to suffer from health conditions, including chronic conditions that require regular care, but many older workers don’t have access to paid sick days or paid leave, which would allow them to take the time they need to protect their health without risking their income. It’s a losing situation for older adults and the employers who depend on them.

To make matters worse, our workplace policies also don’t reflect the increasing number of workers who are serving as family caregivers to older adults. There at least 43.5 million caregivers of adults who are over 50 in the United States. And most of them have paying jobs in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. These caregivers need access to workplace supports like paid sick days that allow them to care for their own health and the health of their loved ones without risking their jobs. They also need access to paid family leave insurance so they are able to care for seriously ill parents or spouses without jeopardizing their financial stability.

But family caregivers aren’t the only ones providing the care our nation’s older adults need. Professional caregivers, or direct care workers, often provide 24/7 care to our loved ones, but they face poor working conditions, few workplace protections and low wages. They tend to our ill and aging population, too often without paid sick days to care for their own health. To meet the demands of an aging population, we need a caregiver workforce that is better paid, better respected and better trained. Direct care workers need paid sick days and family and medical leave insurance so they can take care of themselves and their own families.

The population of older adults in the United States is expected to swell to 20 percent of the population, or 72 million people, by 2030 – making policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance more important and urgent than ever before. Older adults and those who care for them will face ever-growing challenges unless our public policies are updated to reflect demographic realities.

To be a nation that truly honors older Americans and those who care for them, we need a new commitment to family friendly policies that support workers, caregivers and individuals who need care. As Older Americans Month draws to a close, let’s remind members of Congress and lawmakers at all levels that passing paid sick days and paid leave standards are increasingly important steps in giving the older adults in our lives the support they need and deserve. The time is now.

Orlando: A Bright Spot in the Sunshine State!

There’s exciting news out of Florida! A coalition of Orlando workers, businesses, unions and advocates has launched a new campaign to establish a citywide paid sick days standard. The campaign filed paperwork at City Hall this week – the first step toward having the proposal put to the city’s voters.

The group also rallied on the front steps of City Hall. Local businesses owners, parents and workers shared their stories and spoke out about the critical need for earned paid sick days in Orlando. Check out photos from the event and follow the campaign on Facebook here.

Now, the campaign is focused on collecting signatures from registered voters who support the proposed ordinance and giving voters the opportunity to have their say on the need for paid sick days in the city. The campaign needs to collect roughly 20,000 signatures.

Orlando depends on its tourism industry, which brings more than 50 million visitors to the city each year. Yet nearly half of the workers in Orlando can’t earn a single paid sick day to recover from common illnesses like the flu. This poses a serious threat to visitors’ health, the health of workers and the community, and the city’s economy.

The proposed ordinance, dubbed “Question 1,” would require that both full- and part-time workers at businesses with 15 or more employees be able to earn paid sick days. Workers at businesses of all sizes would be protected from workplace retaliation for taking up to 56 hours of sick time each year for specific purposes. The time could be used to recover from one’s own illness or to care for a sick child or family member, which is critical to working families.

The Orlando effort is being led by Citizens for Greater Orlando. To get involved or find out more information, check out the campaign website at www.YesOnOrlandoQuestionOne.com.