Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave Bills Approved in D.C. and New Jersey

Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave Bills Approved in D.C. and New Jersey

Thursday, March 13th, 2008


Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave Bills Approved in D.C. and New Jersey

Efforts to make the workplace more family-friendly achieved some important victories in the last week in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey.

Paid Sick Days in D.C.: On March 4th, the Washington D.C. City Council voted to become the second city to require most employers to provide paid sick days for employees. Under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, employees will be guaranteed:

  • seven days of paid leave at firms with 100 employees
  • five days at firms with 25-99 employees
  • three days in firms with 24 or less employees
  • a pro-rated amount of sick days off for part-time workers

Last minute amendments approved on 7-6 votes weakened the bill by delaying benefits until a year after an employee starts work, exempted most health care workers and wait staff, and created a "hardship" exemption loophole for some businesses. But community and labor leaders in the city still lauded the bill for providing up to 200,000 city workers with a needed benefit to care for themselves and their families in times of sickness.

Paid Leave in New Jersey:  On March 3rd, the New Jersey State Senate approved S 786, which would authorize six weeks of paid family leave during any 12-month period to allow employees to care for an ill family member, newborn or recently adopted child. Employees would receive two-thirds of their regular weekly pay, up to $524 per week. The leave would be funded through contributions made by all employees in the state of 0.14% of earned wages (roughly a quarter per week for minimum wage workers) into the State Disability Fund; the Fund would then distribute the funds to an estimated 38,000 people per year once the system is up and running.

If approved by the New Jersey State Assembly today (which is considered likely), the legislation will make New Jersey the third state after California and Washington to establish long-term paid family leave. 

Well over a dozen states have been considering paid sick days  or paid leave legislation this year, including an Ohio paid sick days initiative likely to appear on the ballot in November.

More Resources


Washington State Plans for the Future of Health Care Reform

With a very active session wrapping up, the Washington State Legislature has laid the way for future health care reform. Late Monday evening, legislators passed SB 6333, the Citizens' Work Group on Health Care Reform. The legislation, which awaits the Governor's signature, authorizes a detailed analysis of leading comprehensive health care reform models and requires the Work Group to engage the public in developing recommendations for comprehensive reform.

The legislation is similar to reform commissions in Colorado and New Mexico, which conducted detailed actuarial studies of various health care reform models, from limited benefit plans to single-payer systems, and have since reported their findings. The Washington Work Group, like Colorado's commission, is required to report specific recommendations for legislative action by November 1, 2009, in time for the 2010 session. 

The Washington legislation identifies four models for reform for further and actuarial study. One of the models is the Washington Health Partnership (SB 6221), a comprehensive proposal by State Senator Karen Keiser modeled after the Wisconsin proposal called Healthy Wisconsin (SB 562).  In January, the Progressive States Network brought Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach, the sponsor of Healthy Wisconsin, to Olympia, Washington to participate in the roll-out of Senator Keiser's legislation. Healthy Wisconsin would guarantee all Wisconsin residents who are not eligible for public programs like Medicaid and Medicare affordable and comprehensive health care benefits. It establishes a progressive financing structure based on payroll and requires everyone -- employers, employees, and government -- to pay their fair share. According to a Lewin Group analysis, Healthy Wisconsin would save the state $14 billion over ten years. A more recent analysis by Citizen Action of Wisconsin shows that the average family would save 40% to 62% of what they currently spend on health care under Healthy Wisconsin -- a savings of $1,320 to $4,180 per year. 

The process laid out for Washington's Citizens' Work Group on Health Care Reform will allow for an apples-to-apples comparison of various proposals for health care reform. This will highlight the strength of models, like Healthy Wisconsin, that achieve greater coordination, strengthen patient-doctor control and more fairly distribute costs, compared to more limited reforms that don't move beyond the current disjointed system.

SB 6333 was a top priority for the Healthy Washington Coalition, a broad coalition of health care advocates and stakeholders working to "achieve secure, quality and affordable healthcare for all Washingtonians."

More Resources


The Progressive Movement on Immigration in the States

Legislators from across the country came together in D.C. last week to announce the formation of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, supported by the Progressive States Network's State Immigration Project, to highlight the positive, progressive immigration policies being promoted in states across the country.

Texas Representative Garnet Coleman, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez and Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema came together with PSN's Policy Director Nathan Newman, America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry and Dan Restrepo of the Center for American Progress Action Fund to emphasize that despite the media focus on anti-immigrant policies, there are many positive steps being taken by states in support of new immigrants.

"The media narrative is almost entirely wrong when it comes to the immigration debate," argued Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice, in ignoring the positive efforts by many state legislators in supporting new immigrants in their communities.  Examples of positive legislation cited by the panel included:

  • Ten states have passed the Dream Act to offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.
  • A dozen plus states have enacted "New Americans" policies to assist new immigrants in learning English and seeking naturalization.
  • Illinois and a number of other states provide health care to tens of thousands of undocumented children. 
  • New York courts, like a number of other states, have granted undocumented workers the full right to sue under state labor laws like worker's compensation.
  • Protecting the availability of drivers licenses for all residents in Maryland, despite efforts to deny them to undocumented immigrants.

In fact, more states have enacted broad-based pro-immigrant laws than have passed the kinds of employer sanction bills that garner so much national attention.

As Texas Representative Garnet Coleman pointed out, most of the anti-immigrant forces and the mainstream media fail to note that "everybody pays for public schools" through property taxes and sales taxes and that "it hurts our economy to deny people the right to work."

This event and the formation of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy emphasizes that political leaders, community groups, labor leaders and other advocates are increasingly working across state lines to strengthen statewide immigration efforts and lay the groundwork for needed comprehensive reform at the federal level. 

More Resources

Research Roundup

In a major new report on transit, A Better Way to Go, the US PIRG Education Fund highlights the environmental, economic and quality-of-life gains that increased investments in public transit can yield. The report emphasizes that such investments can play a major role in reducing dependence on foreign oil and global warming emissions.

In a book-length report, The Teaching Penalty: Teacher Pay Losing Ground, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute document that public school teachers in 2006 earned 15% lower weekly earnings compared to college graduates with similar skills. This earnings lag varies widely by state, with teacher salary in 15 states lagging more than 25%.

In a new policy brief, Providing Working Families with an Important Resource: Time, the Sloan Work and Family Research Network highlights state legislative activity from 2005-2007 that enables workers to manage better their work and family needs, including bills that promote flexible work schedules, part-time employment, remote work or telework, phased retirement, and family leave.

As a new policy brief by the Economic Policy Institute highlights, in the last twenty years, state spending on prisons has increased 127%, far outpacing the 21% increase in higher education spending in the same period.  

Even in high technology products, the United States has developed a record trade deficit, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress.  This deficit has grown because our national and state governments have failed to keep pace with global competitors in investing in local innovation, research and development, and upgrading skills in our workforce.

Good Jobs First has launched a new blog, Clawback, to document both abuses and reforms of state economic subsidy programs on an ongoing basis.  Recent items include new Wisconsin subsidy disclosure legislation approved last week, sweetheart subsidies for Major League Baseball by New York City, and the fight over retail tax breaks in Austin, TX.

Rebuild Ohio and Community Research Partners calculate in a new report that the public cost of vacant and abandoned properties is $60 million and rising in just eight Ohio cities.  That figure includes annual city service costs and lost property tax revenues in addition to weakened neighborhood housing markets.

Please email us leads on good research at


Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave Bills Approved in D.C. and New Jersey

D.C. Employment Justice Center - DC Council Passes Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act!

National Partnership for Women & Families - D.C Becomes Second City in U.S. to Guarantee Paid Sick Days

National Partnership for Women & Families - Paid Sick Days Local Campaigns

Model Paid Sick Days Legislation (San Francisco Bill)

New Jersey Time to Care - Paid Leave Activity in Other States

NJ S 786, New Jersey Paid Leave Act

Washington State Plans for the Future of Health Care Reform

Washington SB 6333 - Citizens' Work Group on Health Care Reform

Washington SB 6221 - Washington Health Partnership

Wisconsin SB 562 - Healthy Wisconsin

Healthy Washington Coalition - 2008 Legislative Agenda

Citizen Action of Wisconsin - Good Deal: How Healthy Wisconsin Improves the Bottom Line for Wisconsin Families

Progressive States Network - Colorado Health Care at a Crossroads: Building a Path to Health Care for All

The Progressive Movement on Immigration in the States

Progressive States Network - State Immigration Project

Center for American Progress - Progressive Movement on Immigration  (text and resources)


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Operations Manager
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

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