Pittsburgh Residents Will Now Be Guaranteed A Paid Day Off When They Get Sick

[Original via ThinkProgress] On Monday, the Pittsburgh city council passed a bill requiring employers to offer workers paid time off for illness or to care for a sick loved one.

The bill passed seven to one after moving quickly through the council. It was introduced on July 6, which meant it got passed in less than a month.

The new law will require businesses with 15 employees or more to give workers at least five paid sick days and three for those with fewer, although unionized construction workers, seasonal employees, independent contractors, and government employees will be exempt. The leave can also be used to care for a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, grandparent, or sibling. Currently, about 40 percent of the city’s private sector workers, including 77 percent of service workers, don’t have access to paid sick leave.

“In a huge victory for Pittsburgh workers, Pittsburgh city council has now joined Philadelphia in taking action to give an extremely important benefit to workers by passing councilman Corey O’Connor’s paid sick leave bill,” said PA Working Families director Kati Sipp in an emailed statement. “This legislation will give more than 49,000 Pittsburgh workers paid sick leave.”

Pittsburgh is now the second city in Pennsylvania and the 20th city nationwide. Four states have also passed paid sick leave requirements.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

There is still no national requirement that employers offer their workers paid time of for illness, however, leaving about 40 percent of private sector workers without any paid days, including about 70 percent of low-income Americans. All other developed countries, on the other hand, have already passed such laws. President Obama and Democratic lawmakers have pushed to pass a national bill, but it hasn’t moved forward.

Critics argue that it will hurt businesses and jobs to institute paid sick leave requirements, but evidence from places with laws on the books points in the opposite direction. Employers inConnecticut, Jersey City, and Washington, D.C. say it hasn’t be costly or difficult to comply with the requirements, while some have even experienced benefits such as lower turnover and higher productivity. The vast majority of employers now support the laws. Meanwhile, job growth was actually stronger after laws took effect in Connecticut, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Lots Of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not The U.S.?

[Original via NPR] If you’ve been paying attention to the political news in the past couple of years, you know that the U.S. stands virtually alone in not mandating paid leave of any type for its workers.

It’s hard to miss; the topic has become a top talking point for Democratic politicians. Hillary Clinton is advocating for stronger paid-leave policies on the campaign trail. In her Monday economic address, Clinton called for paid family leave as a way of helping women stay in the workforce. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her closest rival for the Democratic nomination, has advocated both paid vacation and paid maternity leave on the campaign trail. In addition, some cities and states have started instituting their own sick leave policies.

President Obama likewise brought new attention to paid leave this year as well, when he pointed out in his State of the Union address that the U.S. is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate paid sick or maternity leave for its workers.

He was right about that — it’s true that most American workers are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows workers up to 12 weeks of leave per year to care for family members. But that leave is unpaid.

Here, for example, is where the U.S. stands on paid maternity leave in comparison with other countries in the OECD, a group of highly developed economies:

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Graphic: ThinkProgress – click to embiggen

The U.S. is the only one that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. Likewise, the U.S. is one of nine OECD countries that have no leave policies in place for fathers.

It’s not just parental leave, of course — when it comes to vacation, the U.S. is also unique. The chart below shows combined mandatory vacation days and federal holidays in all OECD nations. All of the U.S. days represented below are federal holidays (which are also not guaranteed days off for all workers); the rest of the nations mandate paid vacation days in addition.

It’s a similar story on sick days — among high-income countries, the U.S. alone does not mandate sick leave, according to data compiled by the World Policy Forum.

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Graphic: TheAtlantic.com – click to embiggen.

It’s not at all new to point this out, but data like these pose a tougher question: How did it get this way? Why is the U.S. so different from the rest of the world in not giving workers paid days off?

You could write an entire book about the complicated forces at work here, but a mix of a few big factors has helped set this scene: The aftermath of World War II, business lobbying, a diminished American labor movement, and the American love of individualism and bootstrap-pulling all have combined to help keep the U.S. alone in not giving its workers paid leave.

American Democracy Is Different

One way of thinking about why the U.S. stands alone on paid leave is to zoom way, way out and consider how Americans think about democracy in general — another area where Americans are arguably unique.

Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset spent much of his career thinking aboutAmerican exceptionalism — trying to understand what exactly makes the U.S. such a strange creature. Our voting rates are low, but our volunteering rates are high, he pointed out. We’re deeply religious. And while some European democracies went in a more socialist direction, the U.S. veered the other way.

For a variety of reasons, Lipset argued, Americans have a different way of thinking about their democracy — the young American democracy was founded with values like individualism and equality of opportunity at its center. And unlike many European democracies, the U.S. has never been a monarchy or a feudal society — that means there’s less awareness of class divisions and less deference to the state in the U.S., Lipset writes. He also proposes a similar explanation for how labor parties and trade unions managed to be stronger in other countries but not in the U.S. — where there’s less class awareness, there’s less likelihood to join unions. (This is just one of many factors he uses to explain U.S. unions’ relative weakness, however.)

It’s easy to see how that might play out in the realm of paid-leave policies. First of all, with less labor power, there’s less support of these sorts of policies. But in addition, when it comes to social class, individualistic, ambitious Americans think of not where they are but where they assume they eventually could be.

“[Lipset’s] argument was that Americans identify with the social class that they aspire to rather than the social class that they were in,” explains Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “So Americans have a lot of sympathy for small business because American people you would have thought were workers historically thought of themselves as potentially being small-business people.”

The result is that Americans tend to have a bit more sympathy for business — after all, when we all own our own shops someday, we won’t want our hands tied by any more regulations than absolutely necessary.

How World War II Explains U.S. Maternity Leave

It’s not just that America’s attitudes differ from the rest of the world’s; the gap in parental leave in particular also has its roots in the aftermath of the world wars.

“The European social democracies that emerged after WWII all wanted paid leave policies (some had them earlier) in part because of their concern about replenishing the population,” Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at CUNY, wrote in an email.

Europe suffered both massive casualties and massive damage to its infrastructure, Milkman explains, and it needed to get more people into the workplace. That meant helping women get into work. Meanwhile, when the U.S. troops came home, it meant less of a need for women in the workplace.

“Here in the U.S., while the war was going on, you had women in jobs in factories and in all kinds of jobs the men had held. But women went home” when the soldiers returned from the war, explains Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership on Women and Families. And with all of those women returning to the home, there was less of a reason to create policies that helped them stay in the workplace.

A Loud Business Voice

One other force opposing paid leave is the business community. Trade groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and chambers of commerce at the state and national levels have repeatedly opposed paid-leave policies. In 2007, one U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said his organization would wage “all-out war” against paid-leave laws.

Businesses are not opposed to paid leave itself; 65 percent of U.S. civilian workers have paid sick leave, and 74 percent have paid vacation, according to the Labor Department. (The numbers are, however, slimmer for paid family leave — only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to that.)

But those in the business community say they’re opposed to the government telling businesses how to institute those policies. Paid leave is expensive, they argue, and businesses should all be able to figure it out on their own.

“The challenge with mandates is it is a government one-size-fits-all approach that tries to bring all of these unique workforces and workplaces under this one-size-fits-all approach,” says Lisa Horn, spokeswoman at the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade group for HR workers. “It limits workplace flexibility and company innovation in this area.”

The U.S.’s campaign finance system helps businesses keep these laws off the books, says one expert.

“Money plays a role in politics in many countries, but the extent to which the amount of dollars [is] spent on campaigns in the United States just dwarfs the amount spent in campaigns elsewhere,” says Jody Heymann, dean of the School of Public Health at UCLA. “The ability [to make] very large corporate contributions plays a much more substantial role in our elections than in other countries.”

With paid leave a top issue for the two front-running Democratic presidential candidates, conservative groups that oppose paid-leave laws will certainly find themselves fighting this fight in 2016, just as big-spending liberal groups that support paid-leave laws, like unions, will be pushing the cause of inching the U.S. a little bit closer to its international peers in this area.

Workers need paid safe leave

Spokane has an incredible opportunity to stand on the right side of domestic violence history this year by adopting an equitable safe and sick leave policy.

Many are not aware of this because of a narrow media focus on the “sick” part of the city of Spokane’s proposed “sick and safe leave” policy. It should provide an opportunity for all employees of Spokane businesses to earn paid time off to seek shelter, medical treatment, counseling, or law enforcement action related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner establishes and maintains power and control over another. As I educate companies in our area about how to recognize the signs of domestic violence among their employees, I often must remind them that RCW 49.76 has provided unpaid time off for survivors since 2008. This seven-year knowledge gap reminds me that once a paid safe leave policy passes, we must take a robust educational approach. This will ensure that every Spokane business understands their responsibilities clearly and stays in compliance to provide all survivors paid safe leave.

Why is this important to survivors?

Read more: The Spokesman-Review

Higher wages and paid sick days matter for everyone

iStock_000007676995MediumWe know a thing or two about low wages and paid sick leave. We are two retail workers in King County. Our union, along with many others — and health, faith and community organizations — support a higher minimum wage and paid sick days. We support these benefits for all workers. Not some, but all, regardless of whether the person is a union member or not.

Here’s something we bet you didn’t know: About one-third of Macy’s workers who are in our union, UFCW 21, and work in the downtown Seattle store are paid minimum wage. While the new higher minimum wage rose to $11 an hour April 1 in Seattle — and will go up to $15 in 2018 — it’s still not enough to pay the rent.

But, at least in Seattle, a worker who is sick doesn’t have to miss a day’s pay because the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time law allows employees to stay at home and care for themselves or a sick family member without losing a day’s pay or facing discipline.

We have tried to get Macy’s and other employers to provide a higher base wage and paid sick leave in contract negotiations so that all workers, not just those who happen to work in Seattle, earn a higher wage and sick days.

Read more: The Seattle Times

High Inequality Results in More US Deaths Than Tobacco, Car Crashes and Guns Combined

A casket at the Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Illinois, 2006. (Wikimedia Commons: Robert Lawton.)

A casket at the Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Illinois, 2006. (Wikimedia Commons: Robert Lawton.)

Studies show roughly half of our health as adults has been programmed in the first thousand days after conception. So societies that privilege those first thousand days are healthier than societies that neglect them. There are only three countries in the world that don’t have a paid maternity leave policy. One of those countries is Papua New Guinea, half of a big island north of Australia. The second country is Liberia, in West Africa. And you can guess the third.

Read more: Moyers & Co.

New Momentum on Paid Leave, in Business and Politics

Oregon this month became the fourth state to pass a bill requiring that companies give workers paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.

Chipotle said this month that it would begin offering hourly workers paid sick days and vacation days, joining McDonald’s, Microsoft and other companies that have recently given paid leave to more workers.
And in a speech meant to preview her presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton put paid leave at the center of her platform. No one, she said, should have “to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.”

Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards. Companies, for their part, are becoming more aggressive in trying to retain workers as the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent.

Full Story: The New York Times »

Paid family leave can offer many benefits

Paid family leave affects our country and our businesses and the personal lives of the parents trying to strive without it. The United States is one of only four nations in the world without a federal entitlement to paid leave for families (out of around 200 nations). So it is obvious that the “land of the free,” needs mothers (and sometimes fathers) to be provided with rights to a substantial amount of paid leave following the birth of a child.

In Canada the country provides a year or more of paid leave, with 55 percent of pay replaced. The Swedish program provides 13 months of shared leave, paying the parents 80 percent of their salaries, up to a limit. One of the current three states providing paid leave in the United States, California, allows six weeks of leave with 55 percent of usual pay replaced.

Not only was California the first state to jump on board the paid family leave boat, but their businesses say it has had little to no ill effect. A recent study found that “California companies could save $89 million under a paid leave program due to increased employee retention and decreased turn-over; The State of California could save $25 million annually, due to decreased reliance on assistance programs, including TANF and food stamps.” Many individuals currently turn to these programs when taking unpaid leave because of financial hardship.

So families have a choice. Either undergo huge pay cuts and most likely rely on state and federal assistance programs, or get paid the fair share of money they worked for and were taxed for. Parents staying at home instead of having kids in day care is more than just avoiding additional financial burdens. There is an impact on the children. The Infant Feeding Practices Study examines the changes in breastfeeding practices in California relative to other states before and after the implementation of paid leave. Findings show a 10 percent to 20 percent increase of breastfeeding during several important markers of early infancy. Meaning that the more states with paid leave, the more children will get proper nutrition as an infant, and we all know the benefits of breastfeeding: smarter kids.

Think of our country’s future. Paid family leave can be the difference that our citizens need. In Washington state the Legislature passed a paid family leave law in 2007, originally to take effect in October 2009, but the law was never implemented. Join me in supporting the well-being of our county, businesses and families and petition to reinstate the paid family leave law in Washington state.

Emily Fleshman-Cooper is a resident of Sultan.

Original: Everett Herald »