On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses. The act also would allow workers to use earned sick time to deal with the effects of domestic violence.
Harkin explained the importance of the legislation:
A full forty percent of private-sector American workers have no access to paid sick days—meaning that they cannot miss a day of work without risking a day’s pay or even their job. When illness or emergencies strike, millions of hardworking people must make an impossible choice between the job they need and their or their families’ health and well-being. Paid sick days are also a matter of public health. Seventy percent of low-wage workers—including food service, hospitality, nursing home care and child care employees—have no paid sick days.
DeLauro explained that paid sick leave isn't just a moral issue, but an economic one as well:
Showing up to work when you are sick costs employers a staggering $160 billion a year in lost productivity and further spreads sickness to others. Ending the current system will ensure people no longer have to choose between their health—or their families—and their paycheck.
The bill would allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave, one hour per every 30 hours they work. The legislation would not affect employers who already allow employees to earn sick leave, as long as the specific guidelines of the proposed law are met.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million Americans work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick and decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability.
Across the United States in a number of states and cities, workers are mobilizing to pass earned paid sick leave ordinances in their communities. Paid sick days campaigns or legislation exist in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York City, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.
Read more: More and More Workers Demanding Paid Sick Days.