Advocates Back Paid Sick Leave, But Opponents Won’t Cough It Up

Activists hold signs during a rally on Jan. 18, 2013, at New York's City Hall to call for immediate action on paid sick days legislation in light of the continued spread of the flu. Last month, New York City began requiring employers to provide paid sick days, joining the ranks of other cities such as Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Last month, New York City began requiring employers to provide paid sick days, joining the ranks of other cities such as Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

If you’ve ever seen your waiter sneeze, you may have asked for a different server. If you’ve seen one sneeze repeatedly, you might wonder why he’s still at work, serving tainted food.

See, most restaurant workers don’t get paid when they stay home sick. But, some go to work anyway, when they’ve got the sniffles or worse, because they need the paycheck.

For labor advocates, that’s a problem.

“The fact that we’re forcing people to go to work sick is not something we want to do as a society,” says Maryland state Rep. John Olszewski Jr., a Democrat. “We shouldn’t put people in a situation where they’re forced to make impossible choices between themselves and their work and their families.”

Last month, New York City began requiring employers to provide paid sick days, joining the ranks of other cities such as Washington, Seattle and San Francisco.

But while several cities have been willing to impose such requirements, states have been more reluctant. Olzewski’s bill attracted a majority of his fellow state House members as co-sponsors, but went nowhere this year.

Instead, a number of states — particularly in the South — have passed laws that block local governments from imposing sick day requirements on businesses.

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