Dear President Obama,
I’m writing to tell you about what the passage of a sick days law in Portland has meant to me. I work two part-time jobs and, until this last year, I didn’t have any paid sick time. On average, I work 30 hours at one job, and 45 hours at the other- that’s a total of 75 hours per week, every week. I work part-time jobs because I’m unable to find a full-time job in my field that pays me enough to cover my rent, living expenses, and medical costs. Working part-time isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.
That’s why it’s so great that I can earn sick days at both of my jobs. Before the law passed, if I missed one day of work, I wouldn’t get paid and I couldn’t afford to pay my bills.
For the past 15 years, I have only ever worked one job where I was able to earn paid sick days. I have an illness, endometriosis, which causes chronic pain and requires regular check-ups with my doctor. In all those years, no matter how I was feeling I had to pull through, keep working, and do a poor job on some things because physically I couldn’t put my all into it. But I couldn’t’ afford not to be at work either. As a professional seamstress, doing a bad job can mean letting clients down and hurting the business I work for. On the other hand, missing work meant I couldn’t afford the essentials that month.
Recently, I woke up barely able to move and was in so much pain that I knew I needed help and couldn’t go to work. After a few minutes of stress and panic I realized that I had paid sick days! I called in and was able to stay home to get the care I needed to recover. It’s a great relief to be able to have the safety net of paid sick days. I know that I don’t have to make myself even sicker and feel worse just because I will miss out on my next paycheck. I’m so grateful for sick days because I live paycheck-to-paycheck and no longer have to worry about my finances when I am sick for a day or two.
It was a wonderful moment when I got to tell my new co-worker that she also gets sick days. It felt so good to see her face when she found out that she is able to take the day off when she’s sick. I’m so glad I was able to share that with her but not everyone in our state – or across the U.S.- can enjoy this benefit. No one in our country should ever feel afraid of what will happen to them or their family because they have a cold or a chronic illness. Please pass a paid sick days law that allows all Americans this basic right.