Currently, forty percent of private-sector workers, including seventy percent of low-wage workers, have no paid sick days. Nearly two-thirds of restaurant workers have reported cooking or serving food while sick.
Hoping to change that, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) have reintroduced the Healthy Families Act. The legislation would allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave, or one hour for every 30 hours worked. The time could be used for the worker’s own illness, to care for an ill family member, or to deal with the affects of domestic violence.
The Healthy Families Act has been introduced in Congress before, but never passed. However, advocates are hoping the popularity of paid sick days law in states and cities across the country will help change the conversation.
Since the Healthy Families Act was first introduced in 2004, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee (later preempted by state law), Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia (pending), and the state of Connecticut have all enacted paid sick and safe days standards. There are also active campaigns in Orange County and Miami, Florida, as well as New York City.
This time around, the Healthy Families Act has more than 90 cosponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate – more than any previous introduction. Here in Washington state, cosponsors include Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Rick Larsen, and Rep. Jim McDermott.
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