In Focus: Paid Sick Days
Jun 11, 2013 | Permalink »
Business Associations Launch “Better Workplaces, Better Businesses” Website
The first-ever national compilation of business supporters for earned sick days and family leave insurance is now available online through a partnership between the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), the Main Street Alliance and Social Venture Network (SVN). Previously, listings of businesses supporting paid leave legislation were only available on sites for individual campaigns. “Better Workplaces, Better Businesses” not only offers a central listing of businesses who support federal, state, and local laws that provide employees earned sick days and family leave insurance, but also provides the latest business and leave news clips, research, polling, business testimony, and more.
“Our goal is to give members of the business community the information and resources they need to advance better workplace practices and policies. We see these workplace tools as beneficial since better workplaces make for successful businesses,” explained ASBC CEO, David Levine.
Makini Howell, owner of Plum Restaurants in Seattle and a national steering committee member of Main Street Alliance added: “The movement for paid sick days and family leave insurance is growing, with increasing engagement from small businesses around the country adding to the momentum. When employers in one city can see that their peers in other parts of the country are hard at work creating positive policy change, that’s good for both employers and employees. It helps bring more businesses into the fold. We’re making more tools and resources available, which will help drive continued growth.”
The website can be found at: http://www.betterwbb.org.
Apr 22, 2013 | Permalink »
Workers' Memorial Day Brings Paid Sick Days Into Focus
By Lauren French, Georgetown University Law Center Intern
On April 28, we will observe Workers' Memorial Day to remember the men and women who have suffered and died on the job from workplace injuries and diseases. Forty-two years ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, with the goal of improving workplace safety and protecting workers from hazards on the job. Although there have been vast improvements since the law's enactment, there is still much work to be done in guaranteeing every worker the right to a safe job.
Evidence continues to mount concerning the inextricable link between public health and access to paid sick days. A recent study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the American Journal of Public Health, has found that workers with paid sick days were 28 percent less likely than those without leave to be injured on the job. On March 19, CLASP held a national conference call to discuss these intersections between worker safety issues and sick days policies. This call brought together advocates from both the workers' safety and paid sick days communities to explore commonalities in their missions to ensure a worker's right to a safe and healthy job.
Surveys have shown that there are high levels of public support for both improved worker safety and paid sick days policies. A study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago for the Public Welfare Foundation found that 77 percent of Americans believe that paid sick days are a "very important" worker right. Furthermore, 89 percent reported that they considered workplace safety regulations to be "very important."
The economic costs of workplace injury and illness cannot be ignored. Every year, workplace illness and injury costs more than $250 billion in healthcare services, lost earnings, and lost production. The brunt of this cost is felt by low-wage workers, who suffer 1.7 million workplace-related illnesses and injuries a year-at a cost of $39 million dollars. These are the same workers who are likely not to have access to paid sick days and who are less able to bear the burden of lost wages.
The discovery of this statistical link between workplace safety and paid sick days is an important discovery for advocates and policymakers. It is clear that workers around the country are being put in jeopardy every day by employer policies that force them to come to work, even if it puts their physical safety at risk. It is important on Workers' Memorial Day that we not only remember fallen workers, but that we strengthen our resolve in the fight for safe and healthy workplaces.
Mar 13, 2013 | Permalink »
Portland Wins Sick Day and Everybody Benefits
The Portland City Council, on March 13, 2013, approved a bill establishing a minimum number of sick days for workers throughout the city. Portland now joins other jurisdictions around the nation -- San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut -- in establishing sick days laws.
Portland's new law did not simply pass; the ordinance passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote. Unanimous. As in "undivided" "agreed" and "undisputed." This represents an extraordinary amount of hard work and negotiation by the bill's proponents-advocates, businesses, and city citizens. The Council bill includes a set of "findings," the very first one of which captures what is at the heart of the debate:
"It is the policy of the City of Portland to ensure that all Persons who work in businesses located in Portland can stay at home when they or a close family member are sick, injured or in need of preventive medical care, in order to prevent the spread of disease and to allow all Portland residents to provide health care for a family member."
The new law requires that employers with five employees or less provide at least one hour of unpaid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Those with six or more employees will be required to provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours. Employees have up to five days of leave through the law; employers are always able to go beyond this minimum standard.
The effort to pass the ordinance demonstrated wide-spread support. The "Everybody Benefits" campaign for paid sick days showcased nearly 40 business supporters ranging from an auto clinic to a grocer to a construction company. Business associations weighed in as well. The African American Chamber of Commerce was a supporter; Oregon's Main Street Alliance and Voice for Oregon Innovation & Sustainability (VOIS) Business Alliance issued a report "Understanding Earned Sick Time in Portland: A Guide for Businesses" showing that the benefits to small businesses of earned sick days outweigh the costs. It was not just business support that won the day. Many others joined in. For example, the city's Human Rights Commission and 3 health associations stepped forward; no fewer than 10,000 people signed and sent requests for action.
The law is set to take effect on January 1, 2014. Before then, the success in Portland will undoubtedly have an impact far beyond the city's borders. That's because it will help elected officials in communities and states where campaigns are underway know that yet another group of elected officials has already taken action to address the need for sick days. There are active campaigns in New York City and bills are under consideration in Washington State, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
The growing success of this sick days movement should also send a loud and clear signal to the nation's capital about the need for federal action. Portland's action is timely: the Healthy Families Act is expected to be reintroduced in Congress within the month and Members from all around the country will have a chance to co-sponsor and demonstrate their commitment to earned sick days. Thank you Portland for inching the nation forward, and giving Congress another reason to move towards earned sick days and a country where everybody benefits.