Now that it is January and the peak of flu season, many Americans will be struggling to stay healthy more than ever. Over 40 million Americans do not currently have access to paid sick days, and 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).
At the State of the Union on Tuesday night, President Obama announced his proposals for the upcoming year, discussing his agenda for the next year. Throughout his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of having a budget that can truly help Americans and expand opportunity. He reminded all those watching about the different programs and improvements will address: “we set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure.” These programs are important, and we hope that they will not be cut or that funding to them will not be sacrificed in order to make room for more programs.
On Tuesday night, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives will stand on the floor of the House chamber and announce to the assembled Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, an array of guests in the gallery (including the First Lady and Dr. Biden) and millions of the American people watching live, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” This now-iconic declaration opens the State of the Union ceremony, as the President ascends the dais, hands copies of his speech to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, and begins his address. Read more…
On Thursday, President Obama announced several new initiatives to benefit America’s working families, especially the over 40 million American workers who do not currently have paid sick days.
President Obama has signed a memo directing federal agencies to provide their employees with six weeks of paid parental leave. In addition, the President has called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which was introduced in the last Congress by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3). This legislation would allow American workers to earn seven days of paid sick leave and has yet to be reintroduced in the new Congress. Urge your Members of Congress to support paid sick days for working families today! Read more…
Last week, the 114th Congress began its first legislative session, welcoming new and returning members to Capitol Hill. Between the close of the 113th Congress and the opening of the 114th, 20 states and the District of Columbia increased their minimum wage. These 20 state level minimum wage increases directly impact 2.3 million workers and about 900,000 workers would be indirectly impacted.
When reflecting on his experience marching in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stated that he was “praying with my feet.” This act of transforming words and faith into action for justice and equality is a key underpinning of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Jewish social justice – one of the many reasons why there was such a deep Jewish involvement. One of the core issues that the Reform Movement has in common with Dr. King is our mission to combat economic inequality.
Dr. King believed strongly that everyone should have access to a livable income and he advocated passionately for equal access to jobs and economic opportunity. Although four states voted to increase the minimum wage last November, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is far too low. In 1968 (the year Dr. King was assassinated), the federal minimum wage would be worth over $10/hour in today’s dollars.
The current minimum wage engenders a cycle of income inequality, for it is near enough for anyone to live by: in no states can a minimum wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40 hour week. Raising the minimum wage would also help improve the economy, by increasing productivity, reducing turnover, saving on recruiting/training costs, reducing absenteeism, and lifting 2 million Americans out of poverty.
While we have seen some positive changes in the economy – such as November’s jobs growth pace of 321,000 jobs a month – the Economic Policy Institute estimates that it will take at least two years before the economy looks like how it did before the recession.
A report from the US Conference of Mayors found that in the past year 71 percent of cities surveyed saw an increase in requests for emergency assistance. Additionally, 43 percent of the cities saw an increase in the number of families experiencing homelessness. However, there were not enough resources available to accommodate everyone– 82 percent of the cities surveyed reported that food pantries and emergency kitchens had to cut the amount of food distributed during every visit, and 77 percent said that food assistance providers reduced the number of monthly visits allowed. The majority of cities expect that the number of requests for emergency food assistance will increase in the year ahead. Read more…
If you had to choose between going into work to earn your paycheck, or staying home to care for yourself or a loved one, what would you do? What would you risk: your wages, your ability to pay for groceries, rent and utilities – or your health or the health of your child?
This complex network of choices is one too many Americans have to face every day. How do you weight your financial needs and your personal responsibilities? At some juncture, there’s a breaking point or there’s a compromise – but paid sick days legislation is so much more than a compromise, it’s a promise that work-family balance is real and is respected.
Adults without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults who have paid sick days at work to report going to work with a contagious illness, like the flu or a virus, which also makes them more likely to infect others. Especially now that it is flu season, it is more important now than ever before for us to ensure that individuals are getting the paid sick days that they need.