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Media Release: Healthy Families Act has Power to Heal Country’s Workforce and Economy

Media Release: Healthy Families Act has Power to Heal Country’s Workforce and Economy

Immediate Release: March 22, 2013 Contact: Susan Berryman Rodriguez
(404) 222.0037/susan@9to5.org

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 —Patricia, a home health care nurse for seven years, didn’t have access to earned paid sick days at her job. She worked in Thornton, Colorado in 2011, caring for a patient who is quadriplegic. He needed complete care by her — everything from lifting to washing him. When Patricia came down with food poisoning, her life fell apart like a house of cards. The food poisoning progressed to pneumonia and her temperature spiked to a temperature of 104 degrees. Recalling those dark days, Patricia said, “I did not have the strength to get myself out of bed, let alone lift a 170 pound man, so I called in sick for three days. This was already a hard decision for me to make because three days is my entire work week.” After three days to recover, Patricia called in again, still not strong enough to lift her patient and was told by her case manager “not to bother coming in again.”

Patricia is one of more than 40 million working Americans in this country without access to earned paid sick days. When workers can’t earn paid sick days, their economic security is at risk. Nearly one in four workers reports that they have lost a job or were threatened with job loss for taking time off due to personal illness or to care for a sick child or relative.

Because Patricia didn’t have paid sick days, she lost her job and faced eviction. Recognizing that no one should have to lose their job or their income — just because they or a family member gets sick, Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Senator Tom Harkin (IA) have re-introduced the Healthy Families Act.

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days annually to use to recover from short-term illness, to care for a sick family member including domestic partners, to seek routine medical care or to obtain assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Employers that already provide this type of leave would not have to provide additional sick time, and small businesses with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt.

Hard-working Americans can’t afford to get sick. Just three and half days of wages lost to an illness are equivalent to an entire monthly grocery budget for some American families. “I believe that this [bill] would help me because I am the sole provider in my family, said Crystal Dodge, another member from Colorado. “And when I miss work, it’s taking a day’s worth of pay out of my paycheck. It’s very hard. I find myself going to food banks just to try to make ends meet.”

“At a time when the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, no one should lose their wages or worse their job – to recover from a common illness or seek routine medical care,” said Linda Meric, national executive director of 9to5. “Paid sick days are right for families, public health and the economy. The Healthy Families Act is a reasonable, common sense bill that would help ensure the economic security of tens of millions of workers.”

  • Paid sick days promote productivity and save businesses money. If workers earned seven paid sick days a year, our national economy would experience a net savings of $160,000 billion a year due to increased productivity and reduced turnover.
  • The Centers for Disease Control estimates the average annual cost to employers of the flu at more than $10 billion.
  • There is strong support for family friendly policies like paid sick days by both Republican and Democratic voters. According to a November 2012 poll by the National Partnership for Women & Families, three in four Americans think Congress should take up a paid sick days law.

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About 9to5: With forty years’ experience in winning justice for working women, 9to5 leads the way to create a powerful force for change on issues affecting low-wage women and their families. 9to5 organizes women to lead campaigns for family-supporting jobs with decent wages and paid sick days; stronger protections against workplace discrimination; and a strong safety net for low-income families. As one of the largest, most respected national membership organizations of working women in the U.S., we’ve won real changes since the hit song and movie based on 9to5 hit the charts. To learn more or to get involved, visit 9to5.org and find us on Facebook and Twitter.