(This letter to the editor was sent to the McKeesport Daily News earlier today by PathWays PA.)
New Year’s marks the time when we pledge ourselves to new diets and healthier living. This year, let’s add a pledge towards creating public health by ensuring that all workers have the opportunity to earn paid sick time. At PathWays PA, a nonprofit organization serving women and families, we have seen firsthand what happens when working families do not have earned sick days.
In Pennsylvania, 46 percent of all workers lack access to earned sick time. Nationally, 48 percent of private sector workers have no paid sick days, including 79 percent of childcare workers and 78 percent of food-service workers. Workers in this situation lose their pay or their jobs when they stay home sick. Not surprisingly, many choose to work sick, putting themselves, their coworkers, and the populations they serve at risk of contracting illness.
Unlike many countries, the United States has no federal laws establishing earned sick time. While there is no federal policy, some areas have either enacted or considered laws to create a minimum standard of earned leave. In Pennsylvania, Representative Marc Gergely has introduced the “Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces Act.” This Act would give workers the ability to earn up to 7 days of paid sick time per year.
Working families should not risk their financial security to do what is right for their own health and for that of the public. As the New Year begins, please ask your legislators to ensure that all workers have access to a healthier future through earned sick time.