Guaranteed paid sick leave is long overdue
By Dave Woodward, Special to Digital First Media
Since September, my 5-year old daughter, Alice, has had a chronic ear issue that resulted in hearing loss and required half a dozen trips to the pediatrician until it became clear that a specialist was needed. Now, this week at Children’s Hospital, my daughter will have minor surgery to finally fix her problem.
Like any other parents, we will do whatever we need to do to help her get better. But I’m lucky, I don’t have to do what is right for my child at the expense of a day’s pay because I have access to paid sick leave. Unfortunately, for too many parents, taking time off work to care for a child will mean losing a day of pay. Forty-three million private sector workers in America don’t have paid sick days available in order to take care of a sick child, an elderly parent, or themselves when they’re sick.
In the scheme of things, my daughter’s health issue is minor and will be resolved. However, it still requires time off work to deal with it. Imagine those families dealing with serious chronic health issues like cancer. No one plans to get sick or to have to care for a sick loved one, but it happens to everyone at some point. And because it happens to everyone, we are long overdue for a common sense solution for all.
Earning one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a max of 5 days a year is not only fair and reasonable, but the right thing to do. Every worker should have access to this type of policy.
When a sick employee comes into work they can infect their co-workers, contributing to lower productivity, no matter how you count it. This is bad for business.
When someone in the food industry with the flu comes into work sick, they don’t just put their co-workers at risk; they put the people that dine there at risk as well. This is bad for public health.
When parents can’t care for their sick child for risk of not being able to pay the bills, there is a high likelihood that they will send their child to school. This puts other kids at risk of getting sick. This is bad for all of our families and our communities.
The ability for all workers to earn paid sick days is good for workers, good for families, and will help drive our economy forward. Fortunately, earned paid sick day policies are gaining traction around the country, with recent victories in Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and several other cities.
Leadership at the local and state level is needed to increase access to paid sick days for all workers in Michigan. I look forward to working with other local and state leaders this year to advance this common sense reform.
My family has the privilege and opportunity to use available paid sick days, but having paid sick days shouldn’t be a privilege. All workers should be able to earn them. My daughter is better for it. Our family is better for it. It’s also a reminder of the importance to speak up for those who are penalized for life’s inevitable sicknesses. Ultimately, it’s in all of our own best interest to create a better and fairer community for all.
Dave Woodward is an Oakland County Commissioner representing Royal Oak and Berkley, and also is a former state legislator.
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