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Guaranteeing earned paid sick time for the people of Massachusetts is a priority that I've long fought for as a representative in the state legislature. As a mom with a background in nursing and interest in public health policy, it is also an issue that resonates with me personally. These are the key reasons why earned paid sick time is a primary focus of mine, particularly during the National Week of Action, when state legislators across the country are promoting a shared agenda designed to secure real prosperity for all Americans.

What does real prosperity look like in Massachusetts? I am proud of the great strides our Commonwealth has made on economic security issues, but one area where we are falling short is that currently, close to one million workers in Massachusetts are unable to earn paid sick time at their jobs. As a result, they face losing wages or their actual job if they choose to take care of themselves or their family members when they get sick. It shouldn't be this backwards in a state as forward thinking and financially prosperous as Massachusetts.

The working women and men who keep our state's businesses running are among our greatest assets. Without earned paid sick time, many of them are forced to go to work sick resulting in the risk of spreading infectious illnesses to coworkers. If they work in a setting like a restaurant or a retail store, the broader public's health is threatened as well. A similar concern holds true for their children. If mothers and fathers cannot stay home to tend to a sick child, the student is often sent to school anyway, spreading the illness.

That is why the lack of earned paid sick time puts us all at risk of getting sick; ultimately we all pay the price. As Tracey, a Massachusetts mom says, "Everybody needs paid sick days! We all get sick. Our children get sick." It also ignores the fact that sick workers and students are less productive on the job or in school. For instance, research has estimated that legislation I've sponsored, the Earned Paid Sick Time Act, would save Massachusetts employers $26 million in wages annually that would otherwise be paid to workers with lowered work productivity due to illness. Some Massachusetts businesses already recognize that providing earned paid sick time is good for their bottom line, as it also promotes employee loyalty, productivity and makes workers feel more valued.

In this day and age, hardworking Massachusetts residents should not have to risk their job in order to care for a child who has the flu, to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment or to stay home to recover from an illness. With earned sick time, workers will not have to choose between being a good employee and a good parent. That’s not what the people in my district want and that’s not what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts represents. It is  the reason why I continue to advocate for the passage of earned paid sick time legislation. It is the economically responsible and humane thing to do.

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