Activists, Business Leaders, and Elected Officials Calling for Guaranteed Paid Sick DaysMay 19, 2016
Family Values @ Work Coalitions Coordinate National Days of Action to Call for Healthy Families Act
WASHINGTON, DC—Paid sick days activists in Family Values @ Work (FV@W), a network of coalitions in 24 states working to pass paid sick days and paid family leave policies, joined forces this week to coordinate national days of action to raise awareness of the fact that millions of working Americans lack access to paid sick days. The events celebrated 32 wins to date in cities and states that have passed paid sick days laws but also highlighted loved ones who live in a location where passage of such laws is unlikely.
“Many national reforms start at the local level, and the fight for paid sick days is no different” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of FV@W. “Thanks to tremendous work by diverse coalitions, more than 10.5 million more Americans are now guaranteed the paid sick days they deserve. We’ve seen numerous wins in the past few years and several more are expected soon. But you shouldn’t have to win the zip code lottery to have access to this essential workplace standard. All of our friends, families, and fellow activists also deserve access to paid sick days. Our movement’s wins are paving the way for the federal Healthy Families Act, so no worker has to choose between keeping a paycheck and following doctor’s orders.”
The week kicked off with a national Twitter Storm on Monday, May 16, followed by events throughout the week in 14 cities around the country. Some highlighted recent victories, including an event in Vermont (Burlington), which recently became the fifth state to pass a paid sick days bill. Other participating locations, including Minneapolis and Washington State, are currently considering legislation or ballot referendums to pass their own paid sick days laws.
Elected officials, business leaders, community members, and workers have been critical to the paid sick days movement and are continuing to fight for the passage of state and national bills:
“Jersey City was the first city in New Jersey to pass earned sick leave, because we felt that no parent should have to choose between caring for a sick loved one and losing 20% or more of their weekly pay,” said Steven Fulop, Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey. “Nearly three years later – and despite all the evidence showing that earned sick leave actually helps strengthen local economies – it’s unconscionable that there are still so many places in New Jersey where working families continue to be left on their own.”
Workers at the events described what it was like before having paid sick days – and what this new protection means to them and their families. “The right to paid sick time has allowed me to put my health first without worrying about losing my financial stability,” said Caitlin Mooney, a Philadelphia caregiver who lacked any paid sick days when recovering from donating bone marrow but since passage of a law in Philadelphia has been able to earn paid time to recover from a chicken pox-related illness she contracted from the babies she cares for.
Business leaders also spoke at the events, including Matt Birong, owner of Three Squares Cafe in Vergennes, VT:
“Passing the paid sick days bill in Vermont was an exemplary collaboration between businesses, workers, and the legislature – and I’m personally proud of our work as a state,” said Matt Birong, owner of Three Squares Café in Vergennes, VT. “I hope this process will have set an example for how we can come together to make positive change possible for our state in areas that we still need to address – like the affordability crises in health care and child care and making sure that families have parental and medical leave.”
Days of action events included roundtables, forums, rallies, and celebrations with candidates, elected officials, faith leaders, and other community activists. As the issue of paid sick days continues to gain momentum, the majority of Americans cite it as a top economic issue. When the only option is to be docked much-needed pay, many workers are forced to go into work sick, jeopardizing the health of their coworkers and patrons—a constant challenge for many restaurant workers, bus drivers, and other lower-wage workers who interact with the public daily.
“When working families have access to paid sick days, it helps the whole community,” said Dr. Jessica Edwards, Regional Vice President – New Jersey Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare. “Parents don’t have to send their kids to school sick because they can’t afford to take a day off. Adults don’t need to feel guilty because they can’t be there when their elderly parents have a medical emergency. And fewer of us need to worry about falling ill from going out to eat, or picking up coffee at a deli, or taking the bus to work, all because someone felt they had to come to work sick or risk losing their job.”
A highlight of the week of action will be a Facebook Q&A today, May 19 with Cong. Rosa DeLauro, chief sponsor of the Healthy Families Act, and Dr. Paul Chung, a pediatrician at UCLA who received the 2009 Nemours Child Health Services Research Award for his research into social determinants of health for vulnerable children.
In 2016 alone, Vermont, Spokane, WA, Plainfield, NJ and both Santa Monica and Los Angeles, CA have won paid sick days victories. By the national day of action on Capitol Hill June 15, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Diego may join as well. More information on the events and the call for passage of a federal bill can be found here.
Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 24 states working to pass policies that value families at work such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.