Massachusetts labor chief: Paid sick days ‘a basic right’

From the Boston Herald:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Gov. Deval Patrick’s top labor adviser threw the administration’s weight behind a proposal Tuesday that would require employers to allow workers to earn seven paid sick days a year, calling the proposal a “basic right,” arguing it would enhance workplace productivity, and rejecting claims that sick leave policies should be left up to individual businesses.

But at a State House briefing on the issue, flanked by members of the Paid Leave Coalition and supportive lawmakers, Joanne Goldstein, secretary of labor and workforce development, went further.

“All those who oppose these bills,” Goldstein said in what she admitted was a presumption, “themselves enjoy sick days, probably more than the bill provides for. To me there’s some disconnect in fighting against something that you yourself enjoy and take advantage of. I would challenge all of you to find some folks who would say, ‘we think this is such a bad idea … we’re willing to forgo it.’”

Goldstein backed identical bills (H 1398 / S 930) offered by Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) that would enable the 1.5 million workers in Massachusetts who currently lack paid sick days to earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked and up to seven paid sick days a year. Under the proposals, employees who earn sick time would be able to use it to care for themselves, a child, spouse or other immediate family members.

The bills, sponsored by 43 House Democrats, 13 Senate Democrats, and one Senate Republican, Sen. Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, are awaiting a hearing in the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

Bill supporters say it would save $348 million a year by reducing employer turnover, slowing the spread of contagious illnesses in the workplace and increasing worker productivity.

If the bill is passed, parents will be able to stay home with sick children or care for elderly parents and relatives, without forcing them to choose between health and income. In fact, Jehlen noted that Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), who was scheduled to speak at the briefing, was at home caring for a child with a 100-degree fever, taking advantage of the paid sick time that the Legislature offers.

Read more from the Boston Herald »

About seattlehealthyworkforce

The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce is a diverse coalition of businesses, faith-based, labor, family, and community groups. We’re working to ensure everyone has paid sick days, so we can all have safer food, healthier families and more productive workplaces.
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