DSC_0095What an amazing public hearing Monday night in the state capitol to support a statewide paid sick time law! Oregonians showed up in force (several hundred folks filling five hearing rooms and the hallway!). We heard testimony from workers, employers, public health experts, community members, kids, local government officials, and more. And, of course, our Executive Director Andrea Paluso testified, as well.  (It’s worth a read, and you can download it here).

What is being proposed?
SB 454 and HB 2005 – the same bill in both the House and Senate – will ensure all working Oregonians have access to a reasonable amount of paid sick time where they work so workers across Oregon can both provide for and responsibly care for their own and their families’ health. Both bills will allow workers to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (about seven days) in a year. Sick time can be used for the diagnosis, care or treatment of the worker or a member of their family or in instances of domestic violence. Both bills also protect employees from retaliation or discrimination for the use of sick time.

Who is affected?
New data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that today, 47% of private sector workers in Oregon have no access to paid sick time where they work. There’s an even larger gap in access among Hispanic workers in Oregon, with a shocking 62% having no paid sick time.

IWPR also details how low-wage workers are less likely to have access to paid sick time than higher-paid workers. In Oregon, 82% of those earning more than $65,000 annually have access to paid sick time compared to 29% of Oregonians earning less than $20,000 annually. Those least able to afford a day with out pay are also least likely to have access to paid sick time. It’s another inequality in our economy that’s hurting us all.

What are people saying?

A wide variety of people spoke in favor of paid sick time, including an 11-year old boy from Eugene whose older siblings had to miss school to care for him because his parents couldn’t afford to miss work. Here are a few inspiring statements that we wanted to share with you:

By ensuring every working Oregonian can afford to stay home when sick, we can strengthen the economic security of families, keep workplaces healthy and productive, and businesses strong. — Representative Jessica Vega Pederson (Portland)

I’m proud to say we’ve provided paid sick days since we first opened our doors more than thirty years ago. The cost is low, less than one percent of payroll, and the return is high. The average tenure of our 10 full-time employees is over 16 years. That kind of employee loyalty is critical to the success of any small business. — Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland

Getting sick shouldn’t mean getting fired. And it shouldn’t mean having to choose to work sick or lose income your family relies on. This policy goes along with the same kind of workplace standards that ensure everyone, no matter where they work, has the same basic human dignities that go with earning a minimum wage, remaining safe at work, or preventing discrimination. — Family Forward Oregon’s Executive Director, Andrea Paluso

Both bills now await work sessions in their respective committees. Of course we will keep you posted as they progress.

Go ahead, add your voice!
In the meantime, we invite you to contact your state representative and senator to ask for their “yes” vote on paid sick time (HB 2005 and SB 454). It’s quick but incredibly important.  Here’s how:

  • Identify your state representatives. Find out who your representative and senator are by entering your street address here.
  • Get their contact info. Record their email addresses and capitol office phone numbers (for later reference!)
  • Make contact! Decide to email or call them, then do it!
    • Send an email: Draft a short, personal message about your support for paid sick time.  It can be as basic as: “I am writing today as your constituent to express my support for paid sick time for all Oregonians.  I ask that you vote to pass it in 2015.  Working Oregonians have waited long enough for what is very standard in most developed nations.” If you have a personal story to share, please add it!
    • Make a phone call: You will either reach a voice mail or a staffer will answer.  Simply say your name, that you are a constituent, and that you are aware there is a paid sick time bill under consideration that you strongly support.  Ask that s/he vote yes on the bill, which is HB 2005 (in the House of Representatives) or SB 454 (in the Senate).

Thank you for taking time to speak up and for participating actively in our democratic government.  We can’t stress enough how powerful personal emails and phone calls are to your representatives.  So few people take the time to write personal emails and pick up the phone that when you do, it really stands out and counts.