Over 40 million Americans do not currently have access to paid sick days. We need to take action to ensure that more people do not have to make the difficult choice between going to work and caring for a sick loved one (or themselves), and we have our work cut out for us!
During the State of the Union, President Obama called on states and cities to pass legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick time, and proposed that Congress give all staff six weeks of leave after the arrival or a new child. He also called on Congress to support Department of Labor funding to help states study and explore how to get their own paid leave programs. States and cities have been following this momentum: five cities across the country currently have paid sick days laws. And, over 2015, paid sick days laws will also go into effect in three more California cities and six more in New Jersey
Momentum to pass paid sick days legislation is building as legislators and advocates are working on active campaigns in 20 states and cities around the country.
In an election last Tuesday, 82% of Chicago voters supported paid sick days in response to a non-binding referendum on the city’s ballot. The referendum asked voters if employers in the Chicago should be required to provide paid sick days to their employees.
Earlier in February, the Philadelphia City Council voted in favor of a paid sick leave measure. Though the Philadelphia City Council has voted in support of this measure three times, this is the first time that the legislation has a real chance of getting passed and signed into law by the city’s mayor.
In addition to this municipal work, there is momentum happening on the state level as well. Nine states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin – along with the District of Columbia already allow at least some workers who have paid sick days to use them to care for certain family members. The state of Connecticut has a statewide paid sick days law in effect, and the paid sick day laws in California and Massachusetts will go into effect later this year.
As more cities and states answer the moral call to support their citizens and families with paid sick days, Congress will also be urged to pass similar legislation. Recently, Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (S. 497/H.R. 932). The Healthy Families Act would allow workers in businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to seven days of job-protected paid sick leave each year. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. People working in a business with fewer than 15 employees would be able to earn up to seven job-protected days of unpaid sick leave annually. Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support the Healthy Families Act today!
We need to speak up for the millions of Americans who do not have paid sick days. We are taught that “one who withholds an employee’s wages is as though he deprived him of his life” (Baba Metzia 112a). Indeed, in the case of paid sick days, a worker’s pay is directly tied to his/her well-being. These values have inspired the URJ to offer paid sick days to its own employees.