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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.

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.

Video: Charlotte News Anchors and Residents Make the Case for Paid Sick Days

In a seemingly impromptu discussion of work and family policies this week, two news anchors at a FOX affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, offered their opinions on why both paid sick days and paid maternity leave should be basic workplace standards. Ashley Anderson and Morgan Fogarty point to public health benefits and basic fairness as reasons to adopt these common sense policies.As Fogarty put it: “I don’t know how you create [an] educated, happy, successful, engaged, efficient workforce if you don’t treat them like human beings who have lives and families.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Check out the anchors’ exchange, followed by residents of Charlotte expressing their support for guaranteeing workers a minimum number of paid sick days:


Despite Hard-Fought Campaign, Disappointing News from Denver

Despite months of passionate and dedicated work by the Campaign for Healthy Denver and its allies in support of a citywide paid sick days standard, Initiative 300 did not pass.

The disappointing election result means that more than 107,000 Denver workers and their families will continue to struggle – like the nursing worker who got fired after calling in sick, and the mother who lost a week’s worth of wages because she stayed home with her ill children, and the restaurant server who worked sick because he couldn’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Thanks to corporate interests that dumped more than $837,000 into a campaign designed to spread misinformation and scare voters, stories like these will continue. And the public will suffer the consequences.

Big business money won in Denver – as part of a nationwide fight against common sense workplace and consumer protections – but momentum in the nationwide fight for paid sick days remains strong. This year alone, elected officials in Connecticut and Seattle granted workers the right to earn paid sick time. And Philadelphia took a step toward a citywide paid sick days standard. Coalitions and legislators in more than a dozen cities and states are mobilizing in support of paid sick days laws, providing momentum for federal action.

A broad coalition of workers, advocates and businesses came together to support the paid sick days initiative in Denver. We know how important a basic workplace standard like paid sick days is to the health and well-being of the city. We have learned a lot, and we will be back. Workers will prevail in Denver and in cities and states across the country.

Dispatch from Denver: A Haunting Thought

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. 

Dispatch from Denver: Purple Thursday

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.

Dispatch from Denver: Winter Wonderland

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.

Dispatch from Denver: Back to D.C.

After 10 days of volunteering with the Campaign for a Healthy Denver, I am headed back to D.C. Working on the ground to help pass paid sick days in Denver has been a great experience, filled with wonderful, passionate workers and advocates who are committed to ensuring Denverites have the right to earn the time they need to care for their health and protect the health of their communities.

As I leave, I feel the urgency and need for Initiative 300 more than ever. Knocking on doors and making phone calls to talk directly with workers and individuals who would benefit from the law has given me a window into lives of Denver’s hardworking families, and the challenges workers face when they don’t have access to paid sick days.

As I depart, I leave my responsibilities in the capable hands of my National Partnership colleagues, Katie and Helen. I am excited that they will be working alongside the other fantastic volunteers for the Campaign for a Healthy Denver. Snow is in the forecast, so stay warm and bundle up, you two, as you continue to spread the word about the importance of voting YES on Initiative 300. And keep an eye out for those funny prairie dogs!

Dispatch from Denver: David v. Goliath

We are just one week away from the deadline for Denver voters to turn in their ballots – and vote YES on Initiative 300. It feels like there is an almost tangible energy in the air (I’ve finally acclimated to the altitude, so I don’t think it’s that). The Campaign for a Healthy Denver kicked off this final week with an eye-opening press event this morning.

The campaign’s event announced the release of a report that documents the opposition’s major funding sources. It turns out that national restaurant chains and business lobbies have contributed significantly to efforts to defeat the local Denver paid sick days initiative. In fact, more than $250,000 of the almost $650,000 raised by Initiative 300 opponents has come from national, out-of-state groups.

The Campaign for a Healthy Denver, on the other hand, is a coalition of 156 Denver based public health groups, civil rights organizations, women’s organizations, labor unions and forward-thinking businesses. The push for paid sick days in Denver really is a David versus Goliath fight.

The opposition’s spending is reflected in the comments I’ve heard from voters when phonebanking and canvassing. Breaking through the opposition’s messaging has been challenging but, once voters understand why paid sick days are so important, they see why voting yes on Initiative 300 is the right thing to do.

Today’s press event called out the opposition’s big money. We need to spread the word and do our best to make sure common sense prevails so that voters vote YES on Initiative 300!

Dispatch from Denver: Sick Rick Goes Viral

Hi, everyone! I’m Katie, a legal fellow at the National Partnership. I arrived in Denver late last week and have been busy volunteering with the Campaign for a Healthy Denver the past few days. This weekend, I got a chance to interview the campaign’s six-foot-tall mascot, Sick Rick, for YouTube.

Since his debut in downtown Denver, Sick Rick has gained a lot of attention. He symbolizes the germs that spread when the more than 107,000 Denver workers without paid sick days must work while sick. The threat to public health is real, and Sick Rick is helping to raise awareness.

Opponents of paid sick days in Denver have criticized Sick Rick as a political stunt that is hurting businesses. They fail to realize that Sick Rick isn’t the problem – the problem is the failure to adopt workplace policies that allow workers to earn paid sick days, so they can stay home when they are sick. And that’s why we need Initiative 300.

To amplify Sick Rick’s message and explain his role in the campaign for Initiative 300, the Campaign for a Healthy Denver decided to create a video to explain the purpose of the mascot. That’s where I – subtly dubbed “Warbara Balters” for the interview – come in…

In the video, which will be available soon, viewers find out that Sick Rick’s uncle, Big Business, has been wining and dining the germ in Denver. Big Business has apparently facilitated Sick Rick’s introduction to a variety of workers by failing to provide paid sick days. Warbara Balters even offers the germ a chance to respond to scathing accusations that the germ flourishes among Denver’s children because, when working parents don’t have paid sick days, kids are often forced to go to school or day care sick where they can spread illness.

Sick Rick tries to turn the tables and emphasize the campaign’s toll on his own family. It seems his cousin, Cyrus the Virus, was devastated by Seattle’s passage of a paid sick days measure last month. And Sick Rick is too distraught to even discuss the difficulties for a germ living in San Francisco given the city’s progressive paid sick days protections for workers. In his closing plea, the germ says that opposing Initiative 300 is a matter of survival if germs want to thrive – just before spraying a silly-string sneeze all over a disgusted and stunned Warbara Balters.

Overall, the video is an entertaining attempt at explaining the very real consequences when so many Denver workers cannot earn any paid sick days. I’ll check back in soon with a link to the video!

UPDATE: The video is up! Check it out: