One of the delights of an early November election is volunteering for a campaign on Halloween. When I arrived at the Campaign for a Healthy Denver headquarters today, a large group of volunteers were already there in their paid sick days themed costumes. There were doctors and nurses in scrubs and surgical masks, patients who looked like they’d come straight from a hospital bed (one man was even on crutches), under-the-weather cooks and servers, a sick teacher and, of course, Sick Rick the giant germ himself. We all headed out to various neighborhoods around the city, to make one last push for Initiative 300 before Election Day tomorrow.
As I traveled around West Denver later in the day, I saw street after street filled with parents taking their kids trick-or-treating. Many of these parents must have made a special effort to get home early in order to take their kids out before nightfall. I couldn’t help but think how lucky they must be to have employers who understand the importance of managing both work and family responsibilities. They’re probably lucky enough to earn paid sick time – for those times when caring for children isn’t as fun as trick-or-treating, but a matter of basic health.
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Denver parents and their children aren’t so lucky. In these families, kids not only miss out on trick-or-treating as a family, but also time at home and doctor’s appointments when they’re sick, preventive care when they’re healthy, and an illness-free school environment… all because their parents aren’t able to earn paid sick days. On a holiday that is at its core about family togetherness, this is a haunting thought.
When I was packing my suitcase for Denver, I made sure to throw in a purple sweater. Why? Because Thursday, October 27, was “Purple Thursday,” a day when advocates seeking an end to domestic violence wear purple to raise awareness, celebrate survivors and mourn those lost to violence. I knew that friends of mine back in Washington, D.C., were participating in this tradition, and I wanted to bring it to Denver in solidarity.
It’s also very appropriate to my mission in Denver – helping to pass Initiative 300 (I-300). Like most paid sick days proposals, I-300 includes a provision that allows survivors of domestic and sexual violence and stalking to use their earned sick time, referred to as paid “safe days,” to address needs related to a violent incident, like getting medical or legal assistance or finding a safe place to stay. Unfortunately, survivors of domestic and sexual violence are extremely susceptible to job loss, particularly when they don’t have a way to take the job-protected time they need. This is not only unfair, but also a terrible blow to survivors’ economic security at a time when they can least afford it. I-300 would let them take care of their needs while protecting their jobs.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when advocates work extra hard to educate their communities about the preventable dangers of domestic violence. Denver voters have a chance to give a helping hand to survivors of violence on November 1 by passing Initiative 300. It’s not the be-all end-all of ending violence, but it’s a much-needed step that will significantly and positively impact survivors and their families.
Hi, all. It’s Helen, work and family policy associate at the National Partnership. I arrived in Denver on Wednesday just hours before the city was hit with its first snowfall of the year. Check out this photo of the scene outside the front door of the kind folks who put me up!
Katie and I spent most of the day delivering yard signs to supporters of Initiative 300. We drove all over Denver – luckily the roads were clear of snow – and got to check out some beautiful neighborhoods. It was gratifying to turn down a street and see “YES on 300” signs already on display in front yards, thanks to the good work of Sara, Rachel and the other Campaign for a Healthy Denver volunteers. And even though Election Day is only a few days away, the yard sign requests are still coming in!
That’s because Denver families know that a paid sick days standard makes sense. People in all kinds of jobs, at all income levels, and with diverse political affiliations agree that it’s the right thing to do for the city when they hear that more than 107,000 Denver workers – and 74 percent of restaurant workers – are currently struggling without a single paid sick day. Despite the well-funded, highly visible opposition campaign, seeing “YES on 300” signs in the snow-covered yards of supporters gives me hope that we’re getting through.