Spotlight Exclusives

Growing Support for Paid Sick Day Laws a Hopeful Sign for Low-Income Workers

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Throughout the country, there is growing evidence that support for paid sick day laws is gaining momentum, including polls that show significant public support.  And in San Francisco, which has its own paid sick day law, initially-resistant business groups now acknowledge that the sky is not falling. 

No federal law yet provides a minimum standard for paid sick days.  However, just as happened with increases in the minimum wage, states and localities are taking up the issue.   More than 20 campaigns have been launched in states and localities, and policies have been approved in three cities San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Milwaukee, where the matter is under court review.    The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, no fan of paid sick days when it appeared as a ballot initiative, recently acknowledged a more nuanced sentiment.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the Chamber۪s senior vice president, Jim Lazarus, observed “It has not been a huge issue that we have heard from our members about.”

Golden Gate Restaurant Association executive director Kevin Westlye asserted inBusiness Week

  that paid sick days “is the best public policy for the least cost. Do you want your server coughing over your food?۪۪  The Business week article notes that “the nightmare vision restaurateurs had of organized sickouts and staffers splitting to,” in Westlye۪s words go see the Giants play on a Friday,۪ “hasn’t panned out.”

A poll commissioned by The Public Welfare Foundation, shows clear public support for paid sick day laws, with 75 percent of those surveyed saying they favor a law that provides a “minimum number” of paid sick days for all workers. Eighty-six percent favor a specific proposal that requires seven paid sick days annually for full-time employees, including 69 percent who strongly favor such a policy.   Legislation currently before Congress the Healthy Families Act would allow all workers in firms with 15 or more employees to earn an hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked or up to seven paid sick days a year.

About 40 million private sector workers do not have paid time off for sick days.  The issue applies to workers at all income levels but the lower the income the greater the likelihood that the worker has no paid sick days. 

For OOTS readers concerned about the lowest wage workers, it is important to note that among this group vacation days or personal time off are also often unavailable.   Notably, among working parents with household incomes below 200 percent of poverty, more than 40 percent do not receive any form of compensated leave no paid sick, vacation or personal days.

The White House has announced that the Department of Labor will a host a  “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” through forums across the country.  These forums should include testimony from businesses that can discuss their experiences with paid sick days and promote an informed dialogue about the obstacles facing low-income workers.

Posted by Jodie


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