Family Values @ Work

Defend Democracy and Reject Sham Flex Legislation!

Defend Democracy and Reject Sham Flex Legislation!

November 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The 25 state coalitions in the Family Values @ Work network vowed to fight HR 4219, a bill introduced this week by Representative Mimi Walters that would undermine paid sick days protections and the democratic process. Crafted by corporate lobbyists, the bill would create an escape clause for big corporations that replaces the right for employees to earn and use paid sick days when needed with an optional process that gives final say to the boss on whether, when, for what reasons and at what cost workers could take the time. Companies that meet the vague and slippery threshold in this bill could evade state and local sick days laws that are already improving conditions in 8 states and 32 localities. The bill would also harm significant new legal protections on predictable scheduling.

“The activists in our coalitions have worked hard along with lawmakers, business leaders, and workers to pass paid sick days policies so that no one has to choose between their health and a paycheck or a job,” said Ellen Bravo co-director of Family Values @ Work. “This bill is an attempt to confuse lawmakers, the media and the public with labels invoking ‘flexibility’ and ‘paid leave.’ In reality, HR 4219 would make work less flexible and paid time to care less available.”

Economists have repeatedly noted the importance of paid sick days in strengthening the economy and families’ financial stability, while public health officials cite the tremendous benefits the policy has on improving public health. Without these policies, more people go to work sick or face economic hardship for being a good parent or following doctor’s orders. Paid sick days laws ensure that workers can’t be disciplined for taking the time they need. Increasingly, they include time to deal with the aftermath of domestic or sexual violence and incorporate a realistic understanding of who makes up a family. None of those guarantees exist in the Walters bill.

“Walmart calls itself offering flexible PTO,” said Donna Kidney, a Walmart worker in a New Jersey town that has not yet won paid sick days, and member of OUR Walmart. “But managers say you have to give advance notice to use the time. Kids’ ear infections and stomach flus don’t give advance notice, and we wind up with absence points that can add up and lead to termination.”

Like the attack on voting rights, HR 4219 would curb the democratic process by pretending to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Multi-city and multi-state employers already deal with different rules in different locations and have to keep paperwork for local authorities. The answer is not to flout local laws but to create a company standard that incorporates the most inclusive feature of each law.

“HR 4219 is an attack on our democracy,” added Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-director of Family Values @ Work. “It undermines existing state and local laws, as well as the voters and elected representatives who are best suited to decide what their communities and workers need. The effort to override local solutions is one part of an unfolding agenda that rigs the system in favor of big corporations.”

Opponents of paid sick days laws who helped draft this bill referred to it as a ‘safe harbor’ for corporations. It would, indeed, protect the powerful while making our communities less safe. And it would create a dangerous new precedent; in no other area can companies pick and choose which laws to obey.

Family Values @ Work is calling on Congress to reject this sham flexibility measure that would make life less flexible and less secure for working people. Lawmakers instead should support the federal paid sick days policy, the Healthy Families Act, and set a strong national baseline while allowing cities and states to do better.”

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Family Values @ Work is a network of 25 coalitions working to pass family-friendly policies, such as paid sick days and paid family and medical leave.

Contact: Kayla Ermanni, kayla.ermanni@berlinrosen.com, 202-800-7408

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