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Need for Earned Sick Days Front and Center in Harrisburg This Week

August 19, 2010

On Tuesday, the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces in Pennsylvania traveled to Harrisburg to shine a light on the need for earned sick time – and to turn up the heat on legislators to pass the earned sick time bill.

At a legislative hearing and legislative visits, many legislators on both sides of the aisle expressed support after hearing personal stories of Pennsylvania residents impacted by their lack of paid sick time. And we left each legislator a packet of tissues to keep the issue at the top of their minds.

We’re closer to more legislators signing on as cosponsors – which means we’re closer to passing this into law. As Representative Marc Gergely, the lead sponsor of the bill, said at the press conference: “I think [we’ve set] the stage for success this fall and even more so in the upcoming session. We look forward to continuing the fight.”

The day was a great opportunity to remind our elected officials of the common sense reasons for providing a modest minimum of earned sick time – and of the stories of how not having any paid leave has impacted real Pennsylvanians.

Dr. James Plumb provided a story through Kate Etherington, from Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility. He said:

“I have asthmatic patients who have waited several days to be seen, requiring a trip to the emergency room for aggressive treatment.  I have patients who experience chest pain, and/or severe headaches and wait days to see me for fear of taking off work, only to find dangerously high blood pressure.  I have mothers whose child is sent to day-care with diarrhea, only to infect other children and day care workers.”

Clearly, paid sick days are good for the health of families, children – and the public. They are a necessity – and it’s time to make the common sense legislation a reality.

Another story came from “E”, a nurse who said she has often worked ill and seen others doing the same, even those who work directly with critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit.  As a survivor of domestic violence, E also underscored the need for earned sick time for other survivors.  E not only had to work while injured, but when she left her abuser, he scheduled court dates to conflict with her work schedule.

“If I had access to earned sick time that could be used for domestic violence during this period,” E told legislators, “I may have been able to seek medical attention and counseling.  I certainly would have been able to use my time in order to attend court dates, preventing my job from being at risk.  As a parent, earned sick time would have let me care for my children when they were ill without the worry of potentially losing my job.”

Carol Goertzel, President/CEO of PathWays PA, also pointed out that “employers who offer the opportunity to earn sick time say it ultimately improves their bottom line.” Opponents of paid sick days often claim small businesses just can’t afford to provide them. But the fact is not providing paid sick is actually costing small businesses. Paid sick days can provide a net savings to businesses by reducing turnover, costs for hiring and training new workers, and the risks of serious illness spreading among co-workers and customers. When employees are forced to chose between getting well and getting a paycheck, businesses lose productivity and more people lose their jobs.

News outlets across the state have picked up on the success of this hearing, and the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces plans to continue working with legislators on this issue.  If you live in Pennsylvania, please help by sending an email to your legislator.



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