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Aaron’s story: Luck shouldn’t determine whether you can take responsibility for your family

July 19, 2011

Via Washington Policy Watch:

I’m the proud father of a 6-week old baby girl. As you can imagine, I’ve had my share of sleepless nights recently – but it’s helped me realize how lucky I am.

Annie, Aaron and baby Ruby

Growing up, my dad worked full-time as an elementary school teacher, and my mom did part-time accounting work, often from home. So when I got pneumonia and was out of kindergarten for a week, she was able to stay home with me. Same deal when my brother got the chickenpox.

Like a lot of families today, my wife and I can’t afford for either of us to work part-time. But fortunately, both of our employers provide paid sick days. When we had to take our baby daughter to Urgent Care a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t risk losing a day’s pay – or worse, one of our jobs.

But there are 190,000 people working in Seattle who aren’t so lucky: their employers don’t offer paid sick days. When their child is sick at school, they can’t leave work to pick them up without risking a negative performance review. When their elderly parent needs to see a doctor, they lose part of their paycheck to drive them to the appointment. When they’ve got the flu, they either report to work (where they spread illness and drag down productivity) or they stay home and risk losing their jobs.

The way I see it, luck shouldn’t determine whether you can take responsibility for your family. And if Seattleites can build software and airplanes for the world, then we can certainly figure out how to make sure we can keep ourselves and our families healthy – without risking our livelihoods in the process.

I’m proud to say that’s exactly what’s happened. Local business and community leaders have worked together to bring a “common ground” proposal for a paid sick days ordinance to the City Council. In the words of one of the 30 small business owners endorsing it:

I feel proud of this effort. Instead of the usual ways of bare-knuckle, fight-to-the-death politics, we met as a group of concerned parties to figure out a solution that works for Seattle. I think it’s a solution that many small businesses will be excited about supporting, and I think it’s the right solution for the employees that make our businesses shine.

But rather than contribute to the discussion, some conservative interests are still trying to protect the broken status quo. Just last week, the corporate lawyer leading the opposition to the proposed ordinance said that paid sick days are “just another benefit” and that going without them is an “alleged problem“.

Maybe that’s true when you earn more in an day than a lot of people earn in a week – but my memories as a child and my experiences as a father tell me something different: paid sick days matter to every one of us. If being able to provide for your family is important to you, please join me in sending a clear message to our City Council in support of the proposed paid sick days ordinance.

We need to make sure our Council members know ensuring people have paid sick days is the healthy, responsible thing to do — for everyone. Please take a moment to send a short message supporting paid sick days to your Council members now.



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