Continued anxiety over swine flu is a poignant reminder that only some New York City residents can afford to stay home if they or their children fall ill. Most lower-income residents do not have the right to get sick; they are not guaranteed paid sick days. But when workers are not allowed time off for illness, they are more likely to spread disease in confined spaces, worsening their own condition and putting others at risk. City government must enact a paid sick leave policy that will serve everyone equally.
New York City has a lot to learn from San Francisco, the first city in the country to mandate paid sick days for public and private sector employees, including part-timers and temps, who accrue the days over time. The business groups originally opposed to the San Francisco law have called it “successful”. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce even admitted: “we really have not heard much about it being a major issue for a lot of businesses.”
That’s because paid sick leave is cost-effective and actually boosts the productivity of workers. New York City cannot afford any further delay of this crucial legislation.
The economic and health reasons for City Hall to move forward on this important issue transcend the politics of the moment. Long before swine flu appeared, the people who most needed paid sick days—low-wage workers, especially women, immigrants, and people of color—were the least likely to have them. That need hasn’t diminished.
Last year, the Drum Major Institute convened a Marketplace of Ideas panel on paid sick leave that showed how and why New York City should replicate San Francisco’s policy. Participants included Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, David Jones of the Community Service Society, and Sara Flocks from Young Workers United, the San Francisco organization that developed the law and mobilized grassroots support for it.
About the Author: Dan Morris joined the staff of the Drum Major Institute in September 2008. A communications strategist with a policy, research, and editorial background, he specializes in issue-based media campaigns. His high-impact story placements have appeared in such outlets as The Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and The New York Daily News. Before joining DMI, he was the head of public relations at eChalk, an organization that empowers schools with web-based technology, where he built a new communications operation focused on message development, press cultivation, thought leadership, and issue advocacy. An experienced educator, he has taught literature to junior high students in New Jersey, and philosophy to college students in New York City.
This article originally appeared in the DMI Blog on June 3, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.