After Maine’s paid sick days bill was reintroduced this winter, it seemed like momentum was on the side of passage. Activists, including public health experts, parents, workers, and business owners, conducted a months-long, spirited campaign to educate the public and policymakers about the importance of paid sick days.
In the last couple of weeks, however, the tide turned. Legislators negotiated various concessions that weakened the original proposal so that it applied to fewer employers and offered leave to fewer employees. Ultimately the lead sponsor felt forced to rewrite the bill so that it only prohibited employers from firing or disciplining employees for using paid time off that they were already entitled to. A massive push by the business lobby in recent days defeated even that limited job protection language. The bill was voted down in committee on a 9-to-2 vote on Monday.
In a statement, Sarah Standiford, Executive Director of Maine Women’s Lobby, the lead organization working for paid sick days, expressed her profound disappointment in the committee’s action:
“Despite clear benefits to Maine people and businesses, today the Labor Committee rejected a bill to establish the critical protection of paid sick days for Maine people. In a major blow to Maine workers and their families, today, the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Labor voted Majority Ought Not to Pass on L.D. 1665, ‘An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1.’
While everyone gets sick, not everyone has the chance to get well. Right now, more than 200,000 Maine workers lack even a single, paid sick day from work. Thousands of others risk discipline or termination simply for using time they’ve already earned. In rejecting L.D. 1665, the Joint Standing Committee on Labor told Maine people that during a rough economy: ‘You’re on your own.’
Maine voters, nearly 90% of whom support enacting paid sick days, will likely see the legislative session conclude with no new protections for themselves and their families.”