Archive for the 'Debra Ness' Category

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.

Sad Day for Floridians

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

Floridians are the latest state residents to fall victim to an underhanded and harmful effort to undermine democracy across the country. Yesterday, members of the Florida House approved far-reaching legislation that will prohibit all localities from establishing paid sick days standards. The state Senate passed the measure last week. It now goes to Governor Scott for final approval.

This is truly a sad day for Florida, where a coalition of workers, businesses and advocates have been working to increase access to fundamental paid sick days protections. In September, despite the will of Orange County voters, the Florida business lobby and lawmakers under its influence kept citizens from being able to vote on an ordinance that would have guaranteed workers in the county the right to earn paid sick days. There has also been significant energy around and support for a paid sick days standard for workers in Miami-Dade county.

It is unacceptable that in a state like Florida, where residents clearly support common sense paid sick days standards, local lawmakers are being denied the ability to respond to their constituents by enacting the workplace standards they want and need – especially when proponents of the bill fail to offer state-level solutions. Yet this is part of a growing trend of so-called “preemption” bills designed to subvert local authorities’ ability to address local needs. At least six states have enacted similar measures, and they are being considered in at least four more.

We commend the Florida Coalition for Local Control for fighting against this damaging bill, and call on Governor Scott to veto it. In the meantime, the prevalence of state preemption bills make the case for a national standard like the Healthy Families Act even stronger. Working people across the country urgently need this common sense policy.

The Time is Now for Federal Action on Paid Sick Days

Cross-posted from MomsRising.

Susan, a single mother in Missouri, has a 10-year-old son who has pneumonia. She wants to stay home and care for him, but she cannot because her boss refuses to let her take the day off and she is terrified that, if she misses work, she will lose her job. She has no choice but to leave him home alone, breaking away from work as often as possible to call and check on him.

When Andrea’s seven-year-old daughter gets pinkeye, the Arizona mother is told to bring the sick child to work with her – at a school, no less. Andrea has to leave her daughter in a small room all day, checking on her regularly and worrying about the infection spreading to school staff and students.

Susan and Andrea are far from alone. They are just two of the nearly 40 million people in this country who cannot earn a single paid sick day. Millions more cannot use them to care for a sick child. For these mothers and fathers, having to choose between job and family is the norm. And it is simply unacceptable.

Fortunately, we have seen recent glimmers of hope that suggest a growing awareness of the plight of workers like Susan and Andrea, and the urgent need for public policies to help.

For the past several years, cities and states have been advancing paid sick days proposals. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have had paid sick days laws in place since 2007 and 2008, respectively. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to guarantee workers this basic right. And Seattle recently passed a paid sick days law, which took effect in 2012.

These laws paved the way for a flurry of activity that led last month to the approval of a paid sick days law in Portland, Oregon, City Council passage of a similar measure in Philadelphia for the second time (although Mayor Nutter vetoed it again), and an agreement in New York City that will lead to close to one million workers getting the right to earn paid sick days by the time the law is fully implemented in 2015.

These victories result from the tireless efforts of workers, businesses, advocates and lawmakers across the country. But the sad reality is that they won’t make life better for Susan or Andrea or for millions of workers like them who do not live in a city or state that gives workers the right to earn paid sick days. Their states, Missouri and Arizona, do not have paid sick days laws and, until recently, federal lawmakers have failed to even consider a national paid sick days standard.

That changed last week when members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce discussed H.R. 1406 – anti-worker legislation disguised as an effort to give workers more flexibility. The bill would cause real harm to workers; it would mean a pay cut without any guarantee of the time off workers need. But in the course of discussing this misguided and dangerous proposal, lawmakers acknowledged experiences like those of Susan and Andrea – and that the country needs policy solutions. And they had an unprecedented discussion of the Healthy Families Act, the federal paid sick days proposal.

As small a step as that was, it was a first for this Congress.  And it comes on the heels of local victories and significant momentum around and support for paid sick days policies. Lawmakers at the federal level need to seize this moment and pass the Healthy Families Act.

The time is now for federal action on paid sick days. Mothers, fathers, family members and workers across the country deserve it.

This post is by Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The Flu Thrives Without Paid Sick Days

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

By now, we have all heard about or been affected by the influenza outbreak that is sweeping the country and taking a staggering toll. At least 44 states have been hit, thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths have been reported so far, and some are already comparing this year’s outbreak to the H1N1 pandemic of 2009.

Story after story carries the common-sense recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that people who are feeling sick should stay home. The CDC includes this as a foremost component of flu treatment and prevention.

But what many don’t realize is that staying home when you’re sick is a privilege in this country — one that more than 40 percent of the private sector workforce does not have because no matter how long they hold their jobs or how hard they work, they can’t earn a single paid sick day. Millions more can’t earn any paid sick days to use to care for a sick child or family member.

As a result, workers are forced to forego the medical treatment and recovery time they need. Instead, because they have to pay the rent and put food on the table, they go to work sick and send ill children to school or daycare.

It is during public health crises like these that we are reminded of the grave consequences of our country’s failure to let workers earn paid sick days.

Take, for example, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. (Despite the many comparisons being made to H1N1 already, this outbreak is currently not at the same magnitude.) During that outbreak, an estimated 7 million people in the United States caught the flu from their co-workers. And according to the American Journal of Public Health, people without paid sick days were at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

Part of what makes the lack of paid sick days such a public health issue is that it is the very workers who have the most frequent contact with the public — such as those working in food service, child care and personal care — who are the least likely to be able to earn paid sick time. The result is a recipe for increased contagion in our workplaces, communities and across the nation.

The good news is that this problem is solvable, as some lawmakers and voters in one state and a handful of cities across the country have demonstrated. They have listened to the people in their localities and followed the advice of public health organizations by establishing common sense paid sick days standards — with great success.

But a health crisis such as this one makes painfully clear that it is time for a federal standard. And lawmakers and employers are simply not doing all they can and should to prevent the spread of illness.

There is a bill, the Healthy Families Act, which has been introduced in the last several Congresses. It has been the subject of in-depth hearings, and it would put the nation on track to implement a national paid sick days standard similar to the ones working well in places that have put such standards in place. Its passage should be a high priority.

A national paid sick days standard would not stop the flu, but it would mean that more workers and their families could stay home to recover when they get it. That would slow the spread of contagion and prevent low-income families from facing impossible choices when the flu or other illnesses strike.

So, as we continue to see, hear and experience the effects of this epidemic, let’s remember that there is a simple, yet critical, step we haven’t taken. And let’s do something about it.

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