Recently a group of about two dozen care-giving advocates, many of them children’s advocates too, gathered in a conference overlooking K Street to brainstorm about how to make care policies more prominent in the presidential campaign.
There was a universal agreement from the group that the attention to family-friendly public policy issues in this year’s campaign has been non-existent. I witnessed the gathering and found myself nodding my head as one participant after another talked about how care-giving, family leave and workplace flexibility are urgent issues that have somehow been ignored.
It’s a complaint that’s been raised repeatedly in recent months, including by the Post’s Petula Dvorak who railed against the total disregard among political leaders to acknowledge that we have a full-on childcare crisis in this country.
Now comes a new attempt to force this issue on to the stage, specifically onto to the University of Denver stage tonight during the first presidential debate.
A Denver student named Jessica Smith has launched an online petition to urge the debate’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, to ask the candidates to explain their positions on family leave, sick time and similar workplace policies.
Within hours after Smith posted the petition in late September it received dozens of signatures. By this writing, it was on its way toward gathering 5,000 supporters.
Smith comes to the cause because she has witnessed what our swiss-cheese-like workplace protections can do to parents and children. Smith said when she was 3 years old she suffered a stroke. Her mother had to give up a paycheck and jeopardize her job and health care in order to care for her daughter.
“My mom has told me how she was forced to worry about our family’s finances at a time when I was still in the hospital recovering. Hard-working Americans like my mom shouldn’t be forced to deal with this kind of financial strain when they are caring for sick loved ones. I want our next president to address this problem by supporting paid family leave and paid sick days laws…”
“Presidential candidates can’t talk about strengthening our economy without talking about putting into place these policies that working families need to keep their jobs and pay the bills,” she writes in the introduction to the petition.
A contrarian might say that Smith has a point, but our unsettled foreign policy, dismal economic situation and gaping deficit must take precedence over more mundane domestic issues. I posed this question to Smith.
“Family leave insurance and earned sick days are in themselves economic issue,” she wrote me. “Specifically, economic issues that directly affected my family and affect families all over the country. It’s especially important when the economy is weak; we need to have earned sick days and family leave insurance so that no one has to worry that they are going to be fired for staying home and taking care of a sick child like my mother was.”
Smith added: “I am not surprised the petition is so successful. I knew when we created this petition that family leave insurance and earned sick days affect so many families. If you look at all the comments people have left on the petition with their personal stories you can see these issues are directly affecting families across the country.”
What is surprising, she said, “is that neither candidate has addressed” these issues.
Smith said she has yet to hear from Lehrer. I also sent a query to the PBS NewsHour, over which Lehrer presides, and did not hear back by publication time.
Will Smith venture inside the debate hall to call out a question on the subject herself? Nope, she’ll be outside at a debate rally.
Like many of us, she’ll be watching closely and hoping the notion of family is finally addressed in a substantive way.
Do you think family-friendly policies should be given more attention in the campaigns?
See the full story at Bloomberg Businessweek
Five years after the city of San Francisco implemented a paid sick days ordinance, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research surveyed both employers and employees to determine the impacts on the city’s businesses and workforce. The results were overwhelmingly positive, easing concerns about job loss, shrinking profits and employee abuse of leave.
Since then, other cities and one state have joined San Francisco in increasing access to paid leave – particularly for low-wage and part-time workers. Seattle’s paid sick and safe time ordinance, the most recent legislation to pass, will take effect September 1, 2012. In the meantime, other cities and states are weighing the potential impacts for their own communities – and a growing body of research points to a number of benefits.
Advocates in New York City have been pushing a proposal for several years, gaining enough support from City Council members to have a veto-proof majority. Yet, it’s the Council’s Speaker, Christine Quinn, that’s preventing the bill from coming up for a vote – citing costs to business as her major concern. In response, IWPR prepared a new study about how the New York City paid sick leave proposal would affect businesses – namely, how much it would cost. While opponents fear overwhelming costs for business owners, IWPR finds New York business owners would enjoy a net increase in profits if the policy were to pass.
IWPR’s cost-benefit analysis finds businesses would ultimately gain $4 million due to reduced turnover, and the city itself would save nearly $41 million per year in health care costs due to the public health benefits of sick leave policies. The final report is scheduled for release in the coming weeks.
This week, “MomsRising Radio with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner” tackles paid sick days – actually, the lack thereof – with: guests Seattle restauranteur and chef Makini Howell; Marianne Bullock, a mom who was fired when her daughter got sick; Seattle City Council-member Nick Licata; and Adriana Kugler, chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Get the podcast of this and other shows here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/moms-rising-radio/id533519537
Members of Washington’s delegation to the 2012 National Summit on Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave are now in the “other” Washington to study best practices and lessons for paid sick days and paid family leave campaigns.
Tomorrow they’ll spend the day visiting members of Washington’s congressional delegation to educate them about the importance of promoting healthy families and responsible business practices – like paid family leave and paid sick days!
Follow #workfamilysummit on Twitter to learn more.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
By Dewetta Logan
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is fighting a City Council measure that would require businesses to allow their employees to earn paid sick days. Although the past few years have not been easy for area business owners like me, the chamber’s contention that a few paid sick days will force businesses to shut their doors is simply not true.
I own and run a small child-care center in West Philadelphia, employing seven child-care providers who look after 30 children under the age of 6. It’s not a business designed to make extraordinary profits, but I work hard to make sure we earn enough to keep our doors open.
The children in our care are the top priority for my business, so it doesn’t make sense to have one of our employees working while sick. When members of my staff aren’t feeling well, they can’t give the children their full attention. Furthermore, coughs and colds can spread quickly among children, and I don’t want to be responsible for sickening a child who started the day healthy.
From Cincinnati Enquirer:
Batavia School District Nurse Cathy Meyer often finds herself tangling with parents over sending their kids to school sick.
And the students don’t just have the sniffles.
One day last month, three kids were vomiting as they got off the school bus.
When she confronts parents about sending kids who are sick, she learns the truth:
The uncertain economic climate has resulted in more kids coming to school ill, because their parents fear losing their jobs if they stay home with their kids.
“It’s a genuine fear, and I understand it.” Meyer said. “If they lose their job, they might not get another one.”
“I’ve had parents drop their kids off and tell me that their child was running a fever, so they gave them Tylenol because they just can’t miss work. It’s a common occurrence,” said Sharyl Iden, nurse for the Southgate Independent School District and president of the Kentucky School Nurses Association.
While they sympathizes, they continue to send letters home with all students, reiterating the policy: Students cannot return to school until they’re free of fever, vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours.
“We have to protect everybody,” Meyer said.
Sending sick kids to school or child care centers isn’t a new issue but while no one keeps statistics, the anecdotal consensus is that it’s happening more often now because of the economy.
Staying home to care for a sick child is not an option for the more than 40 million working people who don’t have sick leave, paid or unpaid, for themselves or to care for a child. In a tough economy, some parents who are allowed time off fear that taking the time will make them a target when layoff decisions are made.
It’s been a long fight, but the will of the voters has prevailed in Milwaukee – for now. Yesterday, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld Milwaukee’s voter-approved paid sick days ordinance, nearly two and a half years after its initial passage.
Passed by a 69% majority (and now affirmed by the courts), the ordinance will soon allow 120,000 working people in the city of Milwaukee to earn between five and nine paid sick days per year, depending on the size of their employer.
Despite overwhelming support from the Milwaukee electorate in the November 2008 election, the ordinance was challenged in court by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).
The MMAC, Milwaukee’s chamber of commerce and a powerful business lobby, found no statutory flaws in the ordinance, so they instead challenged it on shaky procedural grounds. A lower court granted an injunction, and implementation of the voter-approved ordinance was put on hold.
On Thursday the Wisconsin Appellate Court found against all six challenges made by the MMAC, vacating the injunction and ruling in favor of 120,000 working people in Milwaukee.
However, the fight continues in Milwaukee as business interests are again trying to take away the voice of the voters. Wisconsin’s State Senate recently passed AB41, which would again attempt to overturn Milwaukee’s voter-approved law by stripping some legislative powers away from cities.
A recent study from San Francisco – which has a similar requirement – proves paid sick days result in benefits for workers and business alike, with minimal negative impact.