When we go out for a meal or shop for groceries, none of us wants to come home with stomach flu. Yet most of the employees working in Seattle restaurants, and many in grocery stores, daycares, hotels, and even medical centers don’t get any paid sick leave.
Many workers without paid leave earn lower wages and have no cushion in the family budget. If they get sick, they have to make the hard choice – either go to work or lose a day’s pay.
That’s why the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce is urging the Seattle City Council to adopt a new minimum standard for paid sick days, modeled after laws already on the books in San Francisco and Milwaukee.
The Coalition has more than 70 members representing labor, women, seniors, low-income workers, children, communities of color, and businesses.
Over 190,000 people working in Seattle don’t have a single paid sick day – and for some that do, restrictions on their use of paid leave put them in the same boat. Many grocery and hospital employees around Seattle don’t get paid leave until they have been out sick for three days. Workers also may have every absence count against them when it comes to evaluations, promotions – and keeping their jobs. It’s bad for Seattle’s families, businesses and public health.
The public health risks to seniors and other vulnerable populations are obvious. But the negative consequences extend throughout society. Children whose parents don’t have paid sick leave are in poorer health and don’t do as well as more fortunate kids in school. They can’t go to the pediatrician during normal business hours. They get sent to school sick more often. Older kids are kept home from school to care for sick younger siblings.
In San Francisco, where minimum paid sick time standards have been in effect for more than four years, data show businesses thrive when their workers are healthy. And even though many San Francisco business owners initially opposed the ordinance, a recent survey shows two thirds now support it, while the vast majority say it has had no negative impact on profits.
Here in Seattle, a number of small business owners are stepping up to provide paid leave ahead of the ordinance. These businesses understand the positive impact of providing paid sick leave on employee retention and morale – and the direct and indirect savings to their bottom line.
While the push for paid sick days in Seattle is getting a lot of great attention, a few well-connected business lobbyists are putting strong pressure on Seattle City Council members to oppose any paid sick days ordinance.
TAKE ACTION: We need to send a message loud and clear to City Hall that the people of Seattle want a healthy city and minimum standards for paid sick leave. The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce is urging everyone to take a moment to send an email to the Seattle City Council and Mayor McGinn, urging them to act now to support paid sick days.
The flu season isn’t going to wait, and food-borne diseases don’t care what month it is. Without paid sick days, people face a stark choice: either go to work sick and get paid, or stay home to care for themselves or a sick family member, and take a pay cut.
Please, take a moment to send a message to City Council members and Mayor McGinn.
To learn more about what you can do, contact us.
Marilyn Watkins is Policy Director for the Economic Opportunity Institute, a member of the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce.