“The deceptively named Workflex in the 21st Century Act introduced by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) in the U.S. House of Representatives today is an underhanded, undemocratic and transparent effort by the organized business lobby to reverse tremendous progress in increasing access to paid sick days while undermining state and local control. In just a few years, diverse coalitions of working people, advocates, business leaders and lawmakers have fought for and won paid sick days laws in eight states and 32 localities, resulting in a dramatic rise in access to this common sense protection. By allowing companies to bypass these state and local requirements, Walters’ bill would significantly weaken hard-fought gains and could thwart further, much-needed progress.
This bill is a poorly disguised attempt to take away guaranteed sick days at a time when the evidence that paid sick days standards benefit working people and their families, businesses and communities, as well as our economy and our public health, is strong and growing. Paid sick day laws set baselines that guarantee people can earn a certain amount of paid time away from their jobs to recover from common and contagious illnesses, care for a child or loved one who is ill, get preventive care and, often, seek assistance and treatment related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. In contrast, Walters’ proposal would deny workers any certainty by allowing companies to ‘opt-out’ of state and local paid sick days laws if they claim to offer some paid time off, without providing workers any real right to that time.
In the name of ‘flexibility,’ the bill and its proponents also conflate vacation days, paid family and medical leave for serious health conditions, and sick time for short-term and routine care. This is a blatant attempt to sow confusion and mislead people into thinking the proposal is a response to growing demand and bipartisan support for a national paid leave plan. To be clear, Walters’ proposal would do nothing to guarantee paid sick days or the paid family and medical leave people need to deal with their own or a close family member’s serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, it would make it more difficult for workers to get the dedicated time they need to protect their health and the health of their families because employers would be able to decide if, when and for what people can take time.
Members of Congress who are true champions for working families and serious about guaranteeing access to paid sick time will dismiss the so-called 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. Despite progress at the state and local levels and in the private sector, more than 37 million workers in this country still cannot earn a single paid sick day and disparities based on income and industry are appalling. 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. The Healthy Families Act is the real 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 all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.