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Get Sick, Get Fired: America's Low-Wage Workers Push Back

Sharon Lerner
The American Prospect

As the White House convenes its summit on the issues facing working families this week, it’s easy to feel discouraged. The proposals topping the agenda–paid leave, flexible work, childcare–are all great ideas. The problem is they’re the same great ideas advocates have been suggesting for years—decades, even.

Sure, there’s been more recognition of the need for early education. And it’s huge that, over the past ten years, California, New Jersey and Rhode Islandhave instituted state paid family leave programs. But the United States still lags behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to making life more livable for working families. Though there’s been some progress, it’s achingly slow.

There is one front on which the work/life war has been escalating in recent years, however, one issue that has regularly bubbled over into legislative activity and news stories, while the rest have continued to simmer: paid sick days. Proposals allowing workers to earn paid time off to use when they’re sick or caring for a sick child have whipped through city councils and state legislatures. Paid-sick-leave laws have passed in the State of Connecticut as well as the District of Columbia; in Portland, Oregon; Newark, New Jersey; Jersey City; San Francisco; Seattle, and New York City. After Bill de Blasio became mayor of New York, a strengthened version of the law passed there. According to the mayor, it covers an additional 500,000 workers.