It’s summer -- a time for neighborhood barbeques, family road trips, lazy and hazy days. Summer fun is an American tradition, reminding us that we all occasionally need a break from the stresses and challenges of our lives.
Summer is a perfect time to remind ourselves that low-wage working women occasionally need time too; the time to care for ourselves and our families. Now’s the time to take action for paid sick days for all workers: to contact our Senators and remind them that, for the sake of our families, our nation’s public health and family economic security, we must ensure that all workers have access to paid sick days by passing the Healthy Families Act.
This summer – on Women’s Equality Day, August 26 – the members and activists of 9to5 will be doing just that in our National Day of Action, “Healthy Families: Paid Sick Days Now.” Some of us will perform street theater. Some will hold rallies. Others will conduct press conferences. We will all join our voices to say that no one should ever have to make the choice between caring for ourselves or a loved one in times of occasional illness and keeping our pay or our jobs.
Consider Asha’s family.
Asha C.is a young working mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a temporary hire, Asha had no paid sick days and could be fired for missing work – even if she or one of her children was ill. One day, she was sick and called in to say she would be late. When she arrived an hour later, two men escorted her to a large meeting room. They fired her. Her employer’s actions not only caused her to lose her job, but also to miss payment of her rent and other household bills. It took a long time for Asha to find another job.
Like Asha, nearly 60 million Americans lack a single paid sick day to care for themselves when occasional illness strikes. Nearly 100 million lack a paid sick day to care for an ill child. For these Americans, the lack of this basic labor standard presents unconscionable choices: whether to stay home and get better or go to work sick to keep from losing a job.
Those who must go to work sick not only jeopardize their own well-being, they threaten the public health. It was at the beginning of summer in June 2009 that the World Health Organization announced we were officially in the grip of a global H1N1 swine flu pandemic. President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously urged those experiencing flu symptoms to stay home from school and work, see a doctor and avoid public contact until they recover. But American workers without paid sick days could not stay home because they risked losing their jobs. Illnesses were passed in fast-food restaurants, offices and schools.
Still, last summer’s threat of swine flu eventually passed and many of us haven’t given it another thought.
But now it’s summer again. And, soon, flu season will be upon us.
Especially as the economy still falters, especially as flu season approaches, especially because women are now the breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, we must have paid sick days now.
So, we’re asking you to join 9to5 on August 26, Women’s Equality Day, for our National Day of Action. We’re asking you to speak-out. We’re asking you to contact us for ideas on how to take action.
Illness never takes a holiday. Summer is the perfect time to ensure that the Healthy Families Act passes and guarantees paid sick days for all workers NOW.
Linda Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women
Originally posted at: http://9to5org.blogspot.com/2010/07/need-for-paid-sick-days-never-takes.html