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dream hampton's picture

Here at MomsRising, we work virtually--on the phone and on our computers. Somehow, that hasn't stopped us from passing around this mean winter bug that has made national news headlines the past two weeks. Every other day one of us was sending icky morning email updates about fevers and persistent coughs we were battling, kids' puke we were cleaning, or some fun combination of it all. One of my co-workers, Ruth, who dedicates most of her days fighting for paid sick days for moms everywhere, asked us to tweet or email pics of our sick selves and kids to our local lawmakers, urging them to pass laws that provide paid sick days. She was only half joking. More than 1.5 million workers in my state can't earn a single sick day. That's about 46% of all priviate sector workers. I'm no fan of my Michigan governor and was more than happy to email him a pretty gross selfie.

I'm lucky, I work with an organization that offers paid sick days. I'm still fairly new at MomsRising and had a teenage sized emergency my first week at work, so I felt guilty when I came down with the flu two weeks ago and had to take a sick day. I tried to call my flu a cold and I logged on for work the following day. But my flu didn't care about my pet names for him, the following week, he wrestled me back to bed with a fever for another two days.

Even though I work with a team who doesn't make me feel guilty about getting sick, I had residual fear from a lifetime of working for employers who'd threaten and bully me when I called in sick. Because I've had almost universally bad experiences with former employers, I didn't trust that when MomsRising said they offered paid sick days, they actually meant for me to use those days to get better.

When moms are forced to show up to work sick, or send their kids to school sick because they can't afford to stay home with them while they get better, we all lose. More moms and kids become sick, creating a cycle amongst co-workers and students that can take an entire winter to break. Access to earned paid sick days not only keeps people in the jobs they desperately need, it saves employers money. Earned sick days far outweigh the costs of interviewing, replacing and training new workers. Conversely, employees who came to work sick, cost the national economy about $160 billion a year in lost productivity. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco, the state of Connecticut and D.C. have all passed laws requiring paid sick days and there's been no negative effects. The Philadelphia City Council began debating whether or not they'd pass a similar law late last week.

None of us want to be sick. Many of us feel incredibly guilty when our co-workers have to pull our weight when we're unable. We do our best to prevent colds and flus, we scarf down bags of antioxidant rich fruits and wash our hands til they're raw, but that was little protection against what seemed in many offices and schools a nationwide flu. I'm really lucky to work somewhere that understands paid sick days make me a more productive team member, but employees across the country don't need luck, they need laws and legislation. Make sure your local lawmakers are advocating for earned paid sick days.

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