Last weekend and earlier this week, I was in Louisville, Kentucky talking about paid sick days and economic security with both labor leaders and state legislators who champion issues important to workers. Advocates who lead paid sick days campaigns routinely praise organized labor’s hard work on these issues—and it is obvious why.
I had the honor of speaking to state labor leaders from all around the country—from Hawaii to Maine—at the AFL Workers’ Voice conference in Louisville. State labor federation leaders who work hand-in-hand with vibrant paid sick days campaigns in states like Washington, California, Maine and Connecticut were there, as were leaders from states like Texas, Oregon, West Virginia, and Indiana, where it would be great to see paid sick days campaigns emerge.
These women and men have a deep understanding about why a paid sick days labor standard matters. They are appalled that more than 40 million workers in this country are forced to jeopardize their economic security and job stability simply because they or their child come down with a cold or the flu. And because they get it, these folks speak at rallies, lobby legislators, organize phone banks, pass resolutions in favor of paid sick days at local conventions, and educate their union brothers and sisters about the importance of the issue. Paid sick days campaigns rely on their good work and, in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Milwaukee, victories resulted.
I also met members of the National Labor Caucus of State Legislators and other progressive legislators in Louisville—labor champions from around the country—who are just as passionate. These thoughtful state leaders know that a paid sick days standard will provide workers with economic security and job stability. They know that a paid sick days standard will mean that a child’s ear infection will not prevent families from paying their bills—or keeping food on the table. They know that a paid sick days standard will mean that a worker’s flu will not lead to job loss—and the months of unemployment that are so common in today’s economy. And they know that, when we have a paid sick days standard in place, a worker will be able to take time to see a doctor when something is wrong—rather than waiting until a simple problem becomes much more serious.
They champion paid sick days bills because they know that, especially in this economy, working families need a paid sick days labor standard more than ever.
In more than two dozen states and cities, organized labor and progressive legislators—along with broad coalitions of women’s, civil rights, public health, children’s and other groups—are helping to advance paid sick days policies. To learn more about the paid sick days movement and find a campaign near you, go to www.paidsickdays.org.
Vicki Shabo is the Director of Work & Family Programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families.