Monthly Archive for August, 2012

For Parents Without Paid Sick Days, Back-to-School Season Brings Stress and Uncertainty

Cross-posted from MomsRising.

Back to school means a lot of things. In some families, it means shopping for school supplies, helping kids become reacquainted with their alarm clocks, and learning new school bus schedules. But for the millions of employed parents in jobs that don’t let them earn paid sick days, it means another set of worries: uncertainty about what to do if a child gets sick.

For those parents, a child with a sore throat or the flu can mean an impossible choice between sending a sick child to school, leaving a sick child home alone, or losing pay and risking a job by staying home to provide care. And with flu season looming, millions of families may soon struggle with these very choices.

More than 44 million private sector workers in the United States are in jobs that do not allow them to earn paid sick days. Millions more don’t have paid sick days they can use to care for a sick child.

But there is a solution. The federal Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to use to recover from illness, access preventive care, or care for a sick child or family member. It is common sense legislation that would improve outcomes for children and ease burdens on schools and parents.

Parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely as parents with paid sick days to send a sick child to school or day care, resulting in sicker children and the spread of contagion to others. Parents with paid sick days can take their children for check-ups and immunizations, keeping health problems in check.

Some state and local lawmakers who recognize these benefits have already taken action for their communities. Paid sick days laws are in place and working well in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut. A paid sick days law is about to take effect in Seattle as well. And we could soon see progress in New York City and Orange County, Florida.

But at the federal level, legislation is stalled. Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) have introduced the Healthy Families Act, yet Congress has failed to act. That needs to change.

That’s why, this back-to-school season, the National Partnership has created a back-to-school toolkit to make it easier to talk about the need for paid sick days with parents, teachers, school nurses and elected officials. Now is the perfect time to have these important conversations and to build the support we need to make a national paid sick days standard a reality. You can find the toolkit here.

Working parents have a lot on their minds this time of year. Being able to take time off to care for sick children should not be one of their ongoing concerns. Let’s all commit to speaking up on this important issue for the health of our children, schools and communities.

Debra L. Ness is the president of the National Partnership for Women & Families

Women’s Equality Depends on Family Friendly Workplace Policies Like Paid Sick Days

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

Ninety-two years ago, women in the United States celebrated the greatest step in our march toward equality: the ratification of the 19th Amendment, affirming our right to vote. Today, Women’s Equality Day, we commemorate that historic victory and celebrate the courageous women and men who struggled and sacrificed to make it a reality.

But no commemoration can be complete without a hard look at where we are in achieving full equality. Despite very substantial victories, it is clear that we have much more work to do to achieve full equality for women – and fair and equal treatment in our workplaces is a leading battleground in the fight.

That’s because women now make up nearly half of the workforce in the United States, we serve as both breadwinners and primary caregivers for our families, and yet we continue to suffer from blatant discrimination and outdated workplace policies. For example, more than 44 million workers in the country – the majority working in women-dominated industries – cannot earn a single paid sick day is just one example of the punishing reality employed women face every day.

Paid sick days enable all workers to take the time they need to recover from common illnesses and take care of their families, without sacrificing their economic security. Half of working mothers say they miss work when their child gets sick. Those without paid sick days are forced to lose pay or even their jobs when they take time off simply because common sense, family friendly workplace policies are not yet the norm.

The good news is that we’re seeing steady progress at the state and local levels – just as we have with historic victories in the past, including passage of the 19th Amendment. This year, Connecticut became the first state to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days. Next month, Seattle will become the third city to have a paid sick days law in place (following San Francisco and Washington, D.C.). And these victories are just the beginning.

There are active paid sick days campaigns or proposed legislation in more than 20 states and cities across the country. Today, in honor of Women’s Equality Day, advocates in nearly 20 cities are taking action and calling on candidates in their districts to support paid sick days as part of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women’s National Day of Action. The effort couldn’t come at a more critical time.

As women prepare to exercise the hard-fought voting rights we commemorate on Women’s Equality Day, we owe it to ourselves and our families to ask every candidate and elected official if she or he supports paid sick days, fair pay and other critical policies.

We may have a long way to go in the fight for full women’s equality, but we have climbed these mountains before, and there are signs of real hope now. We will continue the march and the progress.

Big Step Forward in Florida!

Late last week, a broad coalition of workers, businesses, unions and advocates in Orange County, Florida, celebrated a significant victory in the effort to secure an earned paid sick days standard for the county. After months of gathering petition signatures from voters who support a proposal to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days, the measure was certified for the November ballot.

As Marlon Washington, chair of Citizens for a Greater Orange County, said:

Today’s announcement that the Earned Sick Time initiative has been certified for the November ballot is great news for Orange County’s economy and health. This common sense proposal will help keep good workers in their jobs, give families financial stability, increase the economic security of our county and protect our health and safety.”

This victory is a big step forward for the Orange County earned sick time coalition. Now, Orange County voters will have the chance to consider this common sense measure and make Orange Country the first municipality in Florida to provide workers the basic right to earn paid sick days. Stay tuned as the campaign continues!

New York Times: America Needs a National Paid Sick Days Standard

Paid sick days campaigns gained steam this weekend when, in a powerful Sunday editorial, the New York Times announced its support for both a federal paid sick days standard and New York City’s paid sick time proposal. “Working While Sick” calls out Congress for failing to act on the issue and, more specifically, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for holding up a citywide paid sick days law that has ample support among council members and would bring real progress for more than a million workers.

More than 40 million American workers get no paid sick leave,” the editorial begins. “They have to work when ill or take unpaid sick days, which can lead to financial hardship, or, worse, dismissal. The best way to address this workplace and public health problem is with a national law requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave — a normal benefit for workers in at least 145 countries.

But since there is little hope for such progress anytime soon in Washington, New York City Council members are taking up the cause. At least 36 of 50 council members support a proposed city law that would require sick leave for more than 1.2 million workers. Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, has refused to bring a bill to the floor, however.”

The piece goes on to talk about the specifics of the New York City proposal and the benefits of paid sick days laws already in place in San Francisco, the District of Columbia and Connecticut. It calls on Speaker Quinn and leaders to find a way to pass the bill, which benefits businesses, the public health and working families. Its conclusion says it all:

American workers should have paid sick leave, and New York City could set a standard for the rest of the nation. Workers in the city deserve a sensible and humane sick-leave benefit now.”

We hope that this compelling argument from the New York Times, combined with the recently announced support of women’s leaders and the unwavering dedication and work of the Time to Care campaign, will inspire real progress in New York City.

Corporate Interest Money and Frivolous Tactics in Orange County Must Not Undermine Voters’ Rights

Since late May, a broad coalition of workers, businesses, unions and advocates in Orange County, Florida, have been working mightily to qualify an earned sick time initiative for the November ballot. This week, the corporate business lobby – which routinely uses baseless tactics to spread misinformation about paid sick days proposals – turned its attention to the Orange County effort. Its tactic? A legal challenge designed to disrupt growing support and momentum and distract voters from the real issue.

Late Wednesday, less than a week before tens of thousands of petition signatures in support of Orange County’s proposed earned sick time initiative are due, the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce joined two well-funded special interest business associations in filing a lawsuit challenging the language of the proposed initiative. At the same time, the Orlando Sentinel exposed a coordinated and well-funded special interest campaign to oppose the measure (to the tune of as much as $2.2 million). If successful, these moves would undermine direct democracy in Orange County by preventing voters from considering an earned sick time standard in November.

The Orange County earned sick time coalition immediately exposed the lawsuit for what it so clearly is: a stall tactic on the part of a powerful minority that wants nothing more than to deny workers, business and the citizens of Orange County an opportunity to strengthen the local economy, protect the public’s health and provide stability for working families. The coalition noted that the language in the earned sick time initiative has undergone thorough legal review without objection.

These opposition claims on the part of corporate interests are baseless and, more importantly, they completely miss the point. Hundreds of thousands of workers in Orange County cannot earn a single paid sick day to recover from illness and protect the health of their families and communities without jeopardizing their economic security. A broad coalition that represents the people’s interests is working to change that. And a narrow group of special interests should not be permitted to obstruct progress or undermine the rights of voters to consider such a common sense measure.