‘An Unfair, Undemocratic, Underhanded Attempt to Take Away the Paid Sick Days Workers Have Won and Need,’ Women’s Leader Says, Blasting Deceptively Named ‘Workflex’ Bill

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“The bill the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions is focused on today would make our country less family friendly and less healthy by letting businesses exempt themselves from state and local paid sick days laws. Introduced by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), the deceptively named Workflex in the 21st Century Act is an unfair, undemocratic, underhanded attempt to thwart the will of the voters and the state and local lawmakers who have passed paid sick days laws. This bill would threaten public health because workers without paid sick days often have no choice but to go to work sick and spread contagion, and to send sick children to school or child care — and the so-called “compensable leave” provided for in this bill is a far cry from the earned paid sick time that is currently guaranteed to tens of millions of working people in states and cities.

The Walters fake flexibility bill is an attempt by the organized business lobby to reverse our progress in making paid sick days available to all workers. This hearing comes just days after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data showing that a record number of people in this country — 71 percent of private sector workers — now have access to paid sick days. But the new data also show shocking, shameful disparities in access to paid sick days; 92 percent of the highest-wage workers now have access to paid sick days, compared to just 31 percent of the lowest-wage workers. The badly misnamed Workflex bill would almost certainly exacerbate these disparities and arrest overall progress.

Paid sick days laws are in place in 10 states, the District of Columbia and 33 localities, and we must build on, not reverse, the momentum. Companies must not be allowed to bypass state and local requirements and the Walters bill must never become law.

Leaders in the House of Representatives have let critical legislation to advance fair pay, stop discrimination against pregnant workers, promote fair and predictable work schedules, advance a national paid family and medical leave program and establish a national paid sick days standard languish, literally for years. But today they made time to hold a hearing on a bill that would harm workers, families, communities, businesses and our country at the behest of corporate special interests. Their priorities are not America’s priorities.

We urge every member of Congress to reject the Workflex in the 21st Century Act and instead support the Healthy Families Act, which would establish a true national paid sick days standard while respecting the rights of states and cities to provide their own, expanded protections. The Healthy Families Act would ensure that all workers, no matter where they live or what job they hold, have the right to earn job-protected sick time. It is the paid sick days solution the country needs.”

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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