Jenya Cassidy

    A Collective Solution to a ‘Personal Problem’ – Unions Fight for Paid Sick Days

    Posted July 28th, 2010 by

    When my son was almost 10, I found out I was pregnant with twin girls. I was excited but a little intimidated. I remembered one newborn being a lot of work – what would two be like? I mentally prepared for double the amount of diaper changes, laundry, bottles and child care costs. But what didn’t occur to me until after my return to work was how going from one child to three more than tripled my chances of needing to call in sick.

    In a recent work week the family cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes, my son got hit by a baseball in P.E. and one of the twins threw up on the other twin’s shoes at preschool. All of this added up to coming in late, leaving early and taking a sick day to care for my child.

    Not an easy week – it can be stressful to have to miss work for any reason. But I have a union contract and paid sick days. I don’t lose money for taking a day when I need it and, even more importantly, I don’t risk losing my job.

    Sadly, this is not true for everyone. Almost half of all private sector workers in the US lose pay when they take a day off work to care for themselves or a family member. Many risk disciplinary action as well. According to a recent study, one in six workers report that they have been fired, suspended or disciplined for taking a sick day to care for themselves, a child or another family member. They are literally being forced to choose between a paycheck and getting well.

    The Union Solution
    Union members are 50% more likely than non-union workers to have paid sick time for themselves and their children. But even as a union member I can’t take my right to paid sick days for granted. The labor movement is still working on this – fighting negative sick leave policies through grievances and at the bargaining table. In the long run, the only way for union members to be ensured the right to paid sick days is to push for this right for all workers. And they are. Unions are joining with Family Values @ Work, a multi-state consortium, to push for public policy that would provide a minimum number of paid sick days for everyone.

    Everyone gets sick. But not everyone has the same right to take a day or two to get well. Needing to take a sick day – like I did recently – can seem like just a personal problem. Working in Coalition with Unions, we can take a personal problem and work collectively on the solution. Together we can win.

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    Posted Under: S: Sick Days, Paid


    July 30, 2010 at 7:08 pm by David Hurlburt

    Great article Jenya,

    Men suffer for taking care of a family also!!

    I have writen poems about my fight over disipline for taking care of my 3 year old son.

    Single By Choice now the Appeal All Time-off Company 2008

    Where applicants and Employees with family members need not apply:

    The saga goes on and every word here is the truth.
    I started this poetic tale when I was in my youth.
    When working for Pacific Telephone, It was 1976
    My wife was at work and my 3 year old son got sick.
    I asked my boss for a day off, because my child was sick.
    I said make it a sick day, vacation, or PDO you can pick.
    He said hire a nurse or get some one else to stay!
    Come to work right now or you will get no pay!
    He passed out in my arms so to the hospital I went.
    The next day at work to the boss’s office I was sent.
    We are not going to pay you and you’re on absence control,
    One more absence and you and your job will pay the toll.
    There ought to be a law to stop policies like that!
    I went to see the union and to have a little chat!
    There is a law in California its labor code 2 3 3
    It says I get sick days to care for my family.
    No, No, says the AT&T our sick leave is only just for you.
    We won’t pay you and you can’t use your vacation too.
    You better be here every day; we have work for you to do.
    Or with our attendance control we’ll just get rid of you.
    We expect you here each day for all your working life.
    Family care responsibilities, is why you have a wife.
    I am now retired but like an elephant I don’t forget.
    And justice for our families is what I want to get.
    The ideal employee is one who is Single By Choice.
    Company employees should sing in one single voice.
    We did not hire your Family not mom, dad, husband or wife.
    No Family commitments! Now that’s for all your working life.
    Single By Choice Company, No family members need apply.
    You must be here each and every day until you retire or die!
    We won in San Francisco there is sick leave for all.
    Join the fight for Families it is time to answer the call.
    There is another labor code a new law section 2 3 4
    They can’t count family absences to toss you out the door.
    The state says they cannot do this; it is a violation of the law.
    We’ll appeal, AT&T screams, as they are running down the hall.
    We have just learned AT&T won an Appeal on labor code section 233.
    The Appeal the Time-off Company will still fight against our family.
    It is the same company that fired women who were carrying a child,
    AT&T took half our social security from our pension when we retired.
    The children of Alexander and the infamous Ma Bell,
    Only care about profit and our families can go to Hell.
    Do not loose hope for our families the fight will still go on
    Remember my Family It is always darkest before the Dawn.
    In California, the first Paid Family Leave was won
    All Families in America need this to cover every one.
    Congress must pass the Balancing and the Healthy Families act.
    God knows we need these laws Now It is the time to Act!
    David Hurlburt
    CWA Local 9410


    Anita Reply:

    @David- Thank you so much for sharing your moving story (in rhyme!). We are with you on working to pass those laws!


    Anonymous Reply:

    @David Hurlburt,

    I love it! Thanks for sharing this. I have met you before at a union event. Keep up the good work : )


    July 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm by Kristin

    So awesome! Thanks for this, Jenya!!


    July 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm by Jill B

    Thank you for this article!

    I am very grateful to work for a company that offers PTO – paid time off. I usually don’t have many ‘sick’ days when I need to be at home recovering, but I have a lot of days and time I need off for my whole family, to keep us all healthy.


    Anita Reply:

    @Jill B- Thanks for your comment! Great to hear that you’re at a company that offers PTO and that you can use the time as you need it. Other companies and our legislators need to get on board– this is good policy!


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