The United States is one of the only nations in the world where workers are not guaranteed sick days. I'm not talking about maternity or long-term sick leave here, I'm talking about a few days of paid time off when sick or when taking care of a sick family member. Most Americans have sick leave at their work (62%) but that leaves a depressing 38% without.
An astonishing 86% of Americans favor requiring employers to provide sick leave (including 81% of conservatives!). This is not a controversial issue. Why is this not at the top of the legislative agenda? This just speaks to how bought-and-paid-for our congress is by business interests. This doesn't mean nothing is being done, there is movement at the local, state, and national levels. There's also a concerted conservative counter-movement at the state level to squash local reforms.
Let's look at some of the legislation around the country starting at the local level first:
San Francisco, CA In 2006, San Francisco became the first city in the US to mandate paid sick days for employees. Workers can earn up to 5-9 days of paid sick leave, earning one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
Washington, DC In 2008, DC passed a law requiring 3-7 paid sick days per year (based on company size) after one year of employment. DC law exempts tipped workers unfortunately but does cover paid "safe" days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Milwaukee, WI Also in 2008, Milwaukee passed a paid sick leave law. Unfortunately, this was nullified at the state level by Scott Walker and the Republican congress passing a law banning municipalities from require sick pay (yay for local control GOP!).
What's going on at the state level?
Connecticut in 2011, Connecticut became the first state in the country to require paid sick leave. Passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Daniel P. Malloy, this law requires companies of 50 or more employees to provide "service workers" with paid sick leave. Workers earn one hour of sick leave per 40 worked, up to a total of 40.
There have been rumblings in several other states: Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington, etc.
There hasn't been any serious activity on this at the Federal level since 2009 (pre-Tea Party takeover). The Healthy Families Act would have mandated up to 7 days paid sick leave for almost all US workers, earned incrementally. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it for a vote. The Obama administration voiced their support.
We need to keep pushing for this at all levels of government. We can't go national with this at the moment but we can accomplish things state-by-state and city-by-city. This is not a controversial issue. There is overwhelming public support. This should be a no-brainer.