It's hard to believe, but the sick truth is tens of millions of workers in the good ole U. S. of A. don't have a single paid sick day.
We're working hard to change this, and yesterday we co-hosted a standing-room-only briefing on Capitol Hill for congressional staff and advocates about the need for a paid-sick-days standard to promote economic security among working families.
Healthy Families Act Briefing, March 2010
We planned for 40 people and more than 75 showed up! The big crowd was a clear indication of strong congressional interest in this issue.
Gail Cohen of the Joint Economic Committee presented new research on the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would establish a basic workplace standard of seven paid sick days. The Joint Economic Committee found that the legislation would give more than 30 million more workers access to paid sick time.
The Healthy Families Act would significantly expand access to this basic protection for millions of our nation's most vulnerable workers, including low-wage workers, workers of color and women workers. Nearly half of workers who would gain access to paid sick time if the legislation passes earn less than $10.63/hour, placing them in the lowest wage quartile. Workers of color comprise nearly one-third of the workers who would be able to accrue paid sick time under the Healthy Families Act, including nearly four million additional African American workers and 5.6 million additional Latino workers. Nearly half of workers who would gain access to paid sick days—13 million—are women.
Thanks to our partner organization, CLASP, Working Mother Media's Jennifer Owens spoke at the event, discussing her company's support for the Healthy Families Act. An expert on best practices, Owens said that nearly nine in ten employers on Working Mother Magazine's 100 Best Companies list offer paid sick time to their employees.
Jennifer also noted that Working Mother supports the Healthy Families Act as an employer with its own staff. "We advocate for it because it fits snugly with our mission to celebrate the companies that support working families, both at work and home." She explained that her company hates "presenteeism," when a staff member comes to work sick, infecting the whole office, school, housekeeping staff or restaurant.
Now more than ever—when families are struggling and jobs are scarce—workers need paid sick days. The March 2 briefing confirmed what workers and responsible employers already know: when companies respond to the needs of working families, workers are committed and productive, and our communities, workplaces and schools stay healthy.