This week, Seattle’s City Council voted 8-1 to make their city the fourth major city in the nation — following Washington, D.C., Milwaukee and San Francisco — to enact legislation ensuring that workers will not have to choose between keeping their jobs and getting the health care they or a family member need. Earlier this year, conservative state legislators struck down Milwaukee’s law, enacted by a 70-30 percent majority in a 2008 ballot initiative, by passing a bill stripping local governments of the power to regulate family and medical leave. This victory for Seattle families continues the positive national momentum of paid sick days legislation, which was also enacted statewide in Connecticut earlier this year, and which promises to continue to be a priority for lawmakers seeking economic security for their constituents across the nation in cities and states next year. It also comes at a time when some tragic, real-life stories of families affected by a lack of paid sick days are emerging, reinforcing the need for this critical measure.
History was made in Hartford, Connecticut as the State House of Representatives gave final approval to landmark, common-sense Paid Sick Days legislation that will protect workers, ensure public health, and create stronger and healthier environments in homes and businesses alike. After a lengthy debate, the House voted by a margin of 76-65 to give hundreds of thousands of employees in the service industry the right to earn paid sick leave so that they will never again have to worry about losing their job or the roof over their head because they or a family member get sick.
As Paid Sick Days legislation advances in Connecticut, Progressive States Network asked State Rep. Zeke Zalaski, Chair of the Labor & Public Employees Committee and a sponsor of the bill, for his thoughts on the benefits that the law promises to bring to workers and families in his state, the motivations behind corporate opposition to the measure, and how Connecticut may be setting an example for the rest of the nation.
This policy guide presents a series of state strategies to advance
workers rights that have
strong public support and present good opportunities to reframe the
debates over workers’ rights and the economy as values issues,
including: Paid Sick Days, Wage Law Enforcement, and Restoring the
86% of the public favors legislation that would mandate seven paid sick days per year for all employers, according to study sponsored by the Public Welfare Fund in collaboration with the National Partnership of Women and Families. Even when the public is asked about mandating nine paid sick days per year, 71% still support the proposed legislation. The study found that paid sick days legislation enjoys deep public support across all demographics and political leanings, including large majorities of Republicans as well as Democrats.
On June 1, the New York Senate put the state in position to be first in the nation to enact a Domestic Workers' Rights law (S2311) by a vote of 33-28. The New York Assembly led the way in June 2009 when it passed its own version of the bill (A1470). This groundbreaking legislation will extend core labor rights, from fair labor standards to paid sick days, to creating a framework for collective bargaining, to domestic workers. This will include those employed to work in a private home to perform housekeeping and/or to care for children, the infirm, or the elderly.
Last fall, Rhode Island Health Department Director David Gifford missed a key press briefing about the state’s effort to combat the H1N1 flu pandemic. He wasn’t shirking his duty — in fact, Rhode Island received national praise for its H1N1 response, and ranked first among states in the rate of vaccination. On the contrary, Dr. Gifford was doing what he advised all Rhode Islanders to do: he stayed home that day because he was feeling sick.