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I heard the wonderful Dr. Barbara Ferrer speak on Boston’s NPR station about the recent study conducted after this spring’s influenza/H1N1 outbreak. She was asked to comment on the fact that H1N1 had disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos in the Boston metro area and why this may be. Three-quarters of those infected with swine flu in Mass are Black or Latino. One of the main reasons she gave was that people can’t stay home when they are sick because of lack of paid sick leave. NPR also commented that Mayor Meninno is asking businesses to “let workers stay home.”

As a low income mother, I know the struggles of balancing health/family/work schedules, and I also know that politicians and city employees “asking” for businesses to change their policies is not going to cut it! Businesses have not and will not enact this policy without this legislation being passed, EVEN though the numbers show that it is more expensive for health departments to close businesses/schools than it is to provide paid sick leave to all employees. The obvious answer to me is to support paid sick days for all workers in Massachusetts NOW; without that, we are taking a serious public health risk that I don’t think any of us want to chance the outcomes of.

Previously I saw Dr Ferrer speak in Boston at the Women’s Legislative Caucus, where she reported approx. 10% of Boston’s school age children contracted influenze/H1N1 this spring. (This was before the study ended and this stat may have changed). This statistic was alarming to me -- 10 schools in the Boston area had closed because of the spread of infection and still it could not be contained and led to such a high percentage so late in the season. The Boston Public Health Dept was forced to close schools, because parents couldn’t keep kids home for the full 7 days needed to recover. Parents were not home to answer calls from school nurses and when asked to pick up their children many parents said they could not leave their jobs or they would be fired. Workers not only risk losing pay when they stay home, many of them risk losing their jobs.

The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Service, Department of Homeland Security and just about EVERY public health department in the country recommends “staying home when you are sick” as prevention for the H1N1 virus. The reality is that WITHOUT paid sick days 1/2 of our workforce cannot stay home to care for themselves; as it is now, 1/3 of workers with paid sick days can not stay home to care for a sick child, so many send children to school or daycare and thus spread the H1N1 virus.

The answer is obvious, no confusing convoluted bill needed, plain and simple WE NEED PAID SICK LEAVE NOW as part of 1,404,000 employees in Massachusetts swine flu preparedness plan. This isn’t the first epidemic and won’t be the last, this legislation is a basic and rational measure of prevention to stop the unnecessary spread of H1N1.

Help us to pack the room at the hearing in Boston on October 7th, 2009! MomsRising members will be meeting at 9:30am at the grand staircase inside the State House!
RSVP here

You can also help supporting the Federal Bill - Healthy Families Act (H.R.2460/S.1152). Sign the petition today!

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