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Paid Sick Leave Means Healthy Families and a Healthy Economy

Posted on Feb 19, 2014
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During the recent Partnership for Working Families Summit in LA, Worksafe Executive Director Gail Bateson spoke about the negative health effects that lack of paid sick leave can have on families, workers, and the community at large.

A few weeks later, on February 15th, Bateson discussed the health benefits of paid sick leave at the Lift Up Oakland event.

Alongside the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2850, Worksafe advocated for a ballot initiative to raise Oakland’s minimum wage and mandate paid sick days.

80% of people in low-wage jobs don’t have paid sick days: these are the workers you see at your grocery store, when you pick up a pizza, and at your children’s day care center or the nursing home caring for an elderly relative.

The last two examples mark an irony that Bateson highlighted:

“The people taking care of the most vulnerable populations have to show up to work on days when they're sick. Often they really have no choice.”

Drawing on her experience working for the California Department of Public Health, Bateson explained that the lack of paid sick time is not only an injustice that can profoundly impact these workers, but a danger to public health more generally.

One sick grocery worker on the job can infect up to 20 co-workers and customers. And from an economic standpoint, it makes no sense at all: it’s simply more expensive for health practitioners to treat workers whose employers don’t have paid sick time and, when workers can’t take time off to recover, their symptoms dramatically worsen, increasing the individual and social costs.

Without paid sick days, we can’t truly protect our health, the health of our families, or the health of the public. It’s past time for Oakland to pass this commonsense and humane initiative.

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