The United States stands out among the few nations of the world that do not provide guaranteed sick leave for workers.
A good number of us are going to contract the flu this winter. We will stock up on tissues, soup and Tylenol. We will be tired. We will ache. We will be miserable. Many of us will be too sick to go to work. We will be forced under the covers until we feel better, never noticing a difference in our paychecks.
Unfortunately, more than 700,000 Marylanders don’t have this luxury. When illness strikes, they have to choose between their health (or the health of a family member) and their job. This is the reality for more than 40 percent of our private sector workforce because they do not have the opportunity to earn paid sick days.
The numbers are even more startling for low-wage workers. Despite the fact that many are already living paycheck to paycheck, 80 percent are unable to earn a single paid sick day. For them, something as simple as a child contracting strep throat can mean the difference between making that month’s rent or being able to afford groceries.
Working Matters, the coalition behind the Maryland Campaign for Paid Sick Days, wants policymakers to take action during the state’s 2013 legislative session. Our laws need to be updated to reflect the reality of today’s working families. Particularly in these harsh economic times when so many are struggling to make ends meet, no worker should be forced choose between their job and their health.
Many are surprised to learn that the United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers this most basic benefit. Under our proposal, Maryland workers will have the opportunity to earn a certain number of paid sick days each year, based on the number of hours they work. The impact will be significant.
For a single mother, it could mean not having to decide between staying home to tend to a sick child, sending her ill child to school, or even asking an older child to also miss school to care for a sibling.
For a victim of domestic violence, the proposal’s “safe time” provision could mean the opportunity to get medical attention or even relocate, without fearing job loss during a crisis.
For the members of Working Matters, there is no question that all Maryland workers should be afforded the opportunity to recover when they are sick and to care for their families without losing important income. While the “Earned Sick and Safe Time Act” will no doubt present significant hurdles from opponents, we know that with the support of people from across our state, lawmakers can be convinced to do the right thing.
We need your help. Please take a moment to sign the Moving Maryland Forward petition in support of the Maryland Campaign for Paid Sick Days. Every voice counts.