Forty Years Behind on Sick-Leave Policy, But Catching Up

It’s too late for Tonisha Howard, the mother of three in Milwaukee who was fired for leaving work to be with her hospitalized two-year-old. And forFelix Trinidad, who was so afraid of losing his job at Golden Farm fruit store in Brooklyn that he didn’t take time off to go to the doctor—even after he vomited blood. Trinidad, a father of two who had stomach cancer, continued to work until just days before his death from stomach cancer at age 34. But for workers in Portland and perhaps Philadelphia, paid sick days just got much closer to becoming reality.

Last Wednesday, the city council in Portland, Oregon, voted unanimously for a bill granting most employees up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. On Thursday, the Philadelphia City Council passed a similar law—and, with only one vote short of a veto-proof majority, advocates are hopeful they can find the last member they need to get it past Michael Nutter, who vetoed a similar bill in 2011. Meanwhile, in New York City, advocates geared up for a hearing on a paid-sick-leave bill, even though Council Speaker Christine Quinn still stubbornly refuses to bring it to a vote. Overall, the sentiment seems to that be more paid leave victories are inevitable. 

“We’re going to see a wave of wins,” predicts Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @Work, an advocacy group that has been working on paid sick days laws throughout the country for more than five years. “I think we’re growing toward a tipping point.”