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New Data, Same Disappointing Paid Sick Days Inequities

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

We’ve long been aware of the disparities in access to paid sick days in this country. This week, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new analysis that provides a clear and up-to-date picture of just how stark the differences are – across ethnicity, occupation, wages and hours worked. The findings confirm that a national paid sick days standard is badly needed.

Some of the disparities are depressingly familiar. As we’ve written before, Latino workers have significantly lower rates of access to paid sick days than the workforce as a whole, and IWPR’s new analysis finds that little has changed: Only 47 percent of Latinos have paid sick days, compared to 61 percent of the total workforce.

Similarly, we’ve known that disparities in workers’ access to paid sick days vary by occupation, with significant implications for public health. IWPR’s analysis shows that access remains alarmingly low in occupations that require frequent contact with the public: Only 24 percent of food preparation and service workers, 31 percent of personal care and service workers (such as child care workers), and 48 percent of workers in sales and related occupations have paid sick days.

IWPR’s analysis also affirms fundamental inequities in paid sick days access by income, demonstrating that the workers who are least likely to have paid sick days are also those who can least afford to take an unpaid day off when they catch a cold or a child gets sick. According to IWPR, 83 percent of workers who are paid $65,000 or more annually have paid sick days, but just 28 percent of workers who are paid less than $20,000 per year can earn them.

The analysis also reveals new details about the gap in access between part-time and full-time workers. Seventy percent of full-time workers (those who work 35 or more hours per week) earn paid sick days, compared to less than 11 percent of those who work fewer than 20 hours per week. This means that people who have to piece together multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet are highly unlikely to earn paid sick days at any of their jobs – adding unnecessary pressure and financial strain.

The disparities highlighted by IWPR this week make even clearer the need for public policy standards that guarantee all workers can earn the time they need to care for their health and their families without sacrificing their jobs or economic security. States and cities continue to make progress, but a federal standard is what America’s working families truly need.

Coast-to-Coast Paid Sick Days Momentum in 2014

Less than two months into the year, remarkable support for and momentum around paid sick days policies are building from coast to coast. At the municipal, state and federal levels, progress continues toward the day all workers can earn the paid sick days they need.

At the municipal level, a paid sick days law in Portland, Ore., took effect on January 1. Soon after, we celebrated the expansion of the District of Columbia’s paid sick days law to cover an additional 20,000 tipped restaurant and bar workers. On January 24, a paid sick days law in Jersey City, N.J., took effect. And only a few days later, Newark adopted its own paid sick days legislation.

There’s also a growing recognition that paid sick days is both good policy and good politics. Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fulfilled a promise to expand New York City’s paid sick days law, which was passed in 2013 and is set to take effect on April 1. The proposal, which the City Council passed today, guarantees more workers the right to earn paid sick time by expanding the law to cover businesses with five or more employees.

At the state level, a bill in Washington passed the House on January 29, and Vermont’s bill passed out of a House committee on February 11. In Illinois, Governor Quinn highlighted paid sick days in his State of the State address, and his proposal was introduced soon after in the legislature. Paid sick days bills have been introduced for the first time ever in Nebraska and South Carolina. New bills have also been introduced in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Maryland. Voters in Massachusetts will likely have the chance to vote on earned sick days at the ballot box this November.

For the latest on the more than 20 active paid sick days campaigns and proposals in states and cities across the country, check out our paid sick days tracking document.

At the federal level, President Obama made a historic call for paid sick days in the State of the Union. “A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship… And you know what, a father does too,” he said. “It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.” Some members of Congress have heeded that call. The Healthy Families Act now has 20 co-sponsors in the Senate and 123 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, with several new co-sponsors joining in the last few weeks. With continued progress at the state and local levels, support for the common sense proposal should grow.

It is already an active – and exciting – year when it comes to paid sick days. With even more proposals and victories on the horizon, and growing attention to the family friendly policies America’s working families want and need, 2014 is shaping up to be a year of great progress.

Newark Continues the Paid Sick Days Momentum

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

Today, the Newark City Council built on the strong momentum we have seen around paid sick days already in 2014 by passing a paid sick days standard for New Jersey’s largest city. This is great news, and we urge Mayor Quintana to sign the ordinance right away.

Since January 1, a paid sick days law in Portland, Ore., has taken effect and a bill to expand D.C.’s paid sick days law to cover more workers was signed into law. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to expand that city’s paid sick days law, which is set to take effect in April. And on Friday, a paid sick days law took effect in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is shaping up to be another year of progress on paid sick days.

Despite recent victories, approximately two in five workers in the United States still cannot earn paid sick days. Among them are some 38,000 people in Newark who cannot earn a single paid sick day. They are forced to choose between their own or their families’ health and their economic security when illness strikes or caregiving needs arise. And the health and well-being of the public, local businesses and the local economy suffer as a result.

The comprehensive ordinance passed today would change that by ensuring that all workers can earn the paid sick time they need. People who work in small businesses with 10 or more employees and those who work in food service, child care and direct care would be able to earn up to five paid sick days a year. People who work in smaller businesses would be able to earn up to three paid sick days a year.

This progress in Newark adds to the great momentum around paid sick days that workers and advocates have generated across the country and in New Jersey. But even with the advance in Jersey City and progress in Newark, one million people in that state still cannot earn paid sick days. New Jersey needs a statewide standard.

If Mayor Quintana signs this ordinance, Newark will become the eighth jurisdiction in the nation to guarantee workers this basic right. And we will have even more momentum for the federal standard the country urgently needs.

Good News for New Jersey’s Working Families

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

New Jersey became a little more family friendly last week. On Tuesday, the governor signed into law a bill that protects pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace. And on Friday, the state’s first sick days law took effect. Together, with continued progress on paid sick days and the state’s successful paid family leave program, these laws will help build a healthier, more economically secure New Jersey.

When the new anti-discrimination law takes effect, it will guarantee pregnant workers the same reasonable workplace accommodations available to all workers with temporary physical limitations, such as being able to carry a water bottle or sit while providing customer service. Despite federal protections provided by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnant workers across the country are often denied these accommodations today.

But combating discrimination and advancing equality are just part of the solution when it comes to enabling people to meet their responsibilities at home and on the job. That is why Jersey City’s new paid sick days law is so important. Ensuring people can earn basic sick days keeps them from having to choose between their jobs and their own health or the health of their families or communities when illness strikes.

As of today, Jersey City’s law guarantees that workers in the city at businesses with 10 or more employees have the right to earn paid sick days, and workers in smaller businesses have the right to earn unpaid sick days. It is the nation’s seventh paid sick days law, and it will make a tremendous difference for workers, their families, businesses and Jersey City communities. It also helps pave the way for a much-needed statewide paid sick days standard.

These developments in New Jersey show that progress is possible. We commend the workers, advocates and lawmakers who championed these laws, and we look forward to more progress for working families in New Jersey, in other states and cities, and at the federal level. State and local lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of keeping people in their jobs and contributing to local businesses and the economy. It is time for Congress to do the same.

Good News from Businesses in Connecticut

Less than two weeks into this year, we have already celebrated a new paid sick days law in Portland, Ore., and a major victory in the effort to expand D.C.’s existing paid sick days law to cover tipped workers. Even more progress is on the horizon as new laws are implemented and new campaigns kick off. And it is exciting that, as of this week, we also have new evidence of the success of the nation’s first and only statewide paid sick days law in Connecticut.

On Monday, Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, and Ruth Milkman, professor at the City University of New York, released preliminary findings from their survey of 251 Connecticut employers that included 15 on-site interviews. The findings should put to rest opponents’ tired arguments that paid sick days harm businesses.

The key takeaway from these preliminary results is that Connecticut’s paid sick days law, which took effect in January 2012 and covers about 400,000 workers in the state, has resulted in numerous benefits for Connecticut’s businesses with minimal or no noticeable effect on their operations or costs. In fact, more than three in four Connecticut employers now say they support the law. And the specific findings clearly demonstrate why.

Nearly 30 percent of the employers surveyed say that providing paid sick days has increased employee morale, and nearly 19 percent say it reduced the number of employees who come to work sick. Other benefits include increasing productivity and motivation and reducing the spread of illness and turnover. Few employers report reducing employee wages or increasing prices as a result of the law, and half report that employees use three or fewer paid sick days annually – despite earning closer to eight, on average.

Appelbaum and Milkman also found that Connecticut’s law has successfully increased the number of employers that provide paid sick days, particularly in the hospitality, retail, health, education and social service sectors. This is especially important for public health given that those who work in these industries interact with the public frequently. (Note: Connecticut’s law does not cover businesses with fewer than 50 employees, excluding many service sector establishments.)

The full report and further details will be available next month. In the meantime, these new findings offer powerful evidence of the benefits to establishing paid sick days standards at the local, state and federal levels. We look forward to the report’s contribution to the substantial and growing body of evidence that shows that paid sick days are good for workers, their families, public health, businesses and the economy.

A Major Victory for D.C.

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

D.C. added to the momentum around paid sick days that began last year and will continue in 2014 when Mayor Gray signed a measure to expand the District’s paid sick days law to cover an additional 20,000 tipped restaurant and bar workers. This is a major victory for D.C. workers and their families that will improve public health and support the local economy.

The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act ensures that a segment of the workforce that is critical to the District’s economy and overall health – those who work in bars and restaurants – will finally have the protection of the District’s 2008 paid sick days law. It will also allow all workers in the District to accrue paid sick days immediately and begin using them after 90 days on the job, eliminating the requirement that they be at a job for one year and 1,000 hours. This is the first time that existing paid sick days legislation has been strengthened to ensure all workers have the protection they need.

This victory was made possible by the dedicated Paid Sick Days for All coalition and the D.C. City Council. We commend Mayor Gray for signing this bill into law. With the deadline for him to sign a minimum wage increase fast approaching, we hope he will continue to show his commitment to the well-being of the District and its families by ensuring that it becomes law as well. All workers need and deserve a living wage and family friendly workplaces.

A Strong Start to 2014 for Working Families

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

2013 was a year of great progress for America’s working families. Laws guaranteeing people the right to earn paid sick days were passed in Portland, Oregon, New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey. Rhode Island passed the nation’s third paid family leave program. We saw new attention and support for work and family policies around the Family and Medical Leave Act’s 20th anniversary, which led to a new federal paid family and medical leave proposal, the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. And much more.

Building off of the victories of last year, 2014 is off to an equally strong and promising start. In fact, America is already more family-friendly. That’s because Rhode Island‘s family leave insurance program took effect January 1, ensuring the state’s residents can take up to four weeks away from their jobs with some pay to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. And in Portland, Oregon, more than 120,000 workers now have the right to earn job-protected sick days as the city’s sick days law also took effect at the start of the year.

And the minimum wage increased in 13 states and four cities on January 1. This is great news for working families and the country: “Ensuring women and all workers are paid fairly and well enough to keep food on the table and their families out of poverty is essential to the well-being of our nation,” as noted in our press release.

But that’s not all. There is even more progress toward a family-friendly America on the horizon as more laws take effect and state and local campaigns continue. In the coming weeks, we anticipate the expansion of D.C.’s paid sick days law to cover tipped restaurant and bar workers. Later this month, Jersey City‘s sick days law will take effect. And in April, more than one millionNew York City residents will gain the right to earn sick days as that city’s law takes effect. These advances will make a tremendous difference for families and communities.

They also help pave the way for the national family-friendly workplace standards the country needs, such as the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act. The Healthy Families Act would establish a national paid sick days standard, and the FAMILY Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program modeled on programs already in place in California, New Jersey and, as of January 1, Rhode Island. Both laws are urgently needed.

As Congress prepares for the New Year, it should recognize the momentum around and demand for family-friendly workplace policies we saw throughout 2013 and prioritize passage of the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act. When it does, working people across the country will no longer have to worry that one case of the flu, the birth of child or a serious illness will mean the loss of critical income or their families’ economic security. And America’s residents, businesses and economy will be better off.

D.C. Poised to Strengthen Paid Sick Days Law

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

It’s a good day for D.C. Today, the City Council voted unanimously to strengthen the District’s paid sick days law to cover more workers – a move that will help D.C. workers and their families, support local businesses and strengthen the economy. Mayor Gray should sign the bill into law right away.

The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act would amend the District’s existing paid sick days law to enable tipped restaurant and bar workers to earn up to five paid sick days per year. These workers had been excluded from the law, despite obvious harmful consequences for public health. According to a 2011 survey of more than 500 D.C. restaurant workers, 59 percent say they have gone to work sick.

The bill will also allow all workers to accrue paid sick days immediately, and begin using them after 90 days on the job, eliminating the requirement that they be at a job for one year and 1,000 hours.

We learned this summer that D.C.’s paid sick days law has been a big success in increasing the number of people with paid sick days in the District, but it still leaves too many workers behind, unable to earn the paid sick time they need. The bill the Council advanced today would fix that, allowing an additional 20,000 workers to earn the paid sick days they need.

It is also great news for the District that the Council passed an overdue increase in the minimum wage. This is a major victory for low-wage workers in one of the country’s most expensive places to live. We urge the Council to prioritize an increase in the tipped minimum wage, which is urgently needed as well.

We commend the dedicated Paid Sick Days for All coalition and all Council members who are committed to realizing the full promise of the District’s paid sick days law. Today’s action adds to the momentum for paid sick days and other family friendly policies we have seen throughout the country this year. We look forward to adding this victory for D.C.’s working families to the list.

New Map: The Preemption Trend Continues

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

Across the country, support for paid sick days continues to grow. In 2013 alone, Portland, Ore., New York City and Jersey City, N.J., established common sense standards that will collectively benefit millions. Meanwhile, opponents continue trying to thwart paid sick days efforts through “preemption” – state-level legislation designed to prevent cities and counties from passing paid sick days standards and other workplace protections.

At the National Partnership, we have been closely following this dangerous trend. We recently released a comprehensive mapthat tracks paid sick days preemption efforts across the country. It is a disturbing look at the reach and power of a few well-organized and well-funded big business interests that are determined to block paid sick days and other standards that would help working people. Nowhere is this more apparent right now than in Pennsylvania.

Since 2011, there has been overwhelming support for establishing a paid sick days standard in Philadelphia. In fact, as a result of the tremendous work of a broad-based coalition of workers, advocates, businesses and lawmakers, the City Council has twice passed a proposal that would do just that. Unfortunately, the mayor vetoed it – despite 90 percent of the city’s voters saying they support the measure.

Now, Pennsylvania Representative Seth Grove is pushing House Bill 1807, which passed the state’s House Labor and Industry Committee on Monday. H.B. 1807 would ban residents and lawmakers in Philadelphia and other jurisdictions in the state from establishing paid sick days standards. In Philadelphia, this effectively ties the hands of the coalition and the City Council. As Councilmember Bill Greenlee said: H.B. 1807 is “unfair… not just to the city of Philadelphia, but to any municipality that thinks the issue is important to its locale.”

As I’ve written before, preemption is not a new or aboveboard tactic. It is becoming increasingly clear that efforts to pass them are part of a well-orchestrated power play by corporate interests that are out to stymie momentum for common sense public health and economic justice policies. On the paid sick days front, they have succeeded in nine states and, as our new map shows, have their sights set on several more.

The good news is that these preemption efforts have not – and will not – deter paid sick days campaigns. Instead, they strengthen workers’ and advocates’ commitment to expanding access to paid sick days – and they make the need for national standards, like the Healthy Families Act, that much stronger. Paid sick days proposals will continue to advance and preemption will continue to be exposed as underhanded and harmful.

In the meantime, you can help in Pennsylvania. If you live in the Keystone State, urge your state House member to vote against H.B. 1807 today. Tell her/him that city residents and lawmakers should decide if paid sick days standards are right for them. If you don’t live in Pennsylvania, share this post with someone who does.

Newark Continues the Paid Sick Days Momentum

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

Just last week, Jersey City became the first city in the Garden State with a paid sick days law. Now, the Newark City Council has taken a critical step toward doing the same in the state’s largest city. This exciting news adds to the paid sick days momentum in New Jersey and across the country. Newark would be the seventh city and eighth jurisdiction in the nation to have such a law.

The Newark ordinance, which was introduced last night, will ensure that nearly all workers in the city can earn the paid sick days they need. People who work in small businesses with 10 or more employees and those who work in food service, child care and direct care would be able to earn up to five paid sick days a year. People who work in smaller businesses would be able to earn up to three paid sick days a year.

There are currently 38,000 people in Newark who cannot earn paid sick days, which means they are forced to choose between their health or their families and their economic security when illness strikes or caregiving needs arise. More than one million people in New Jersey are faced with the same impossible choice because they, too, cannot earn a single paid sick day.

That is why the victory in Jersey City last week and progress in Newark last night are so important – they help pave the way for the state standard New Jerseyites need. And, eventually, they will lead to a federal standard that ensures all workers have this fundamental right. The Newark City Council should recognize the tremendous and widespread benefits of paid sick days and prioritize approval of this common sense measure right away.