Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chicagoans Mobilize, Momentum Builds for Earned Sick Time Ballot Question

Majority of Aldermen and Voters Support Sick Time; Cite Benefits to Chicago Businesses, Economy, Public Health, and Families

CHICAGO—In advance of Tuesday’s citywide elections, Chicago small business owners, workers, health care practitioners, and parents ramped up efforts today to guarantee that the nearly half a million Chicago workers who do not have access to paid sick days are able to take time off when they or their families are ill. Nearly a year since the introduction of sick time legislation, Chicagoans will vote Tuesday on a non-binding referendum, expected to further build momentum for the city’s passage of the workplace policy.

In recent weeks, members of the Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition have raised the issue during forums with candidates for mayor and aldermen. The Coalition has launched an online pledge to vote “yes” on the referendum and us gathering signatures from voters who support paid sick days. 

“Chicago families can’t afford to wait any longer for paid sick days,” said Melissa Josephs, leader of the Earned Sick Time Coalition and Director of Equal Opportunity Policy at Women Employed. “Voters should send a resounding stamp of approval on Tuesday and lawmakers should swiftly heed their call—giving workers much needed relief and making our city a healthier, more business-friendly place for it.”

Currently, 42 percent of private sector workers in Chicago do not have access to a single paid sick day, meaning that more than 460,000 Chicago workers can be fired for missing work if they or relatives are sick. For low-income workers, for whom the absence of the policy is most costly, almost 80 percent lack paid sick days; African-American and Hispanic workers also disproportionately lack access to sick days. Nationally, nearly one quarter of adults report having been fired or threatened with job loss for taking time off to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one.

“For us, paid sick days is about keeping our income and also keeping our job,” said Rhiannon Broschat, a Chicago mother who was fired last year for missing work to care for her son with special needs during an extreme weather emergency. “There are companies that provide sick days because they value employees, making the workplace happier and customers, too. Guaranteeing paid sick days for all of us would be a win for business, the economy and all of us.”

A recent survey found that 82 percent of Chicago voters support paid sick days legislation. Across the country, the great majority of voters—across all demographics and parties—support policies that allow workers to earn paid sick time.  And according to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, paid sick days would save Chicago businesses an estimated $6 million annually due to reduced turnover, higher productivity and lower absenteeism, and reducing the spread of the flu. Likewise, it would reduce public healthcare costs by $12 million annually, including $3 million in savings to public health insurance systems funded by taxpayers.

"When one of our employees is sick, we want them to stay home to get better,” said Sarah Marshall of North Side Community Federal Credit Union. “Since they are offered paid sick time, our employees stick with us for years and that helps our business run smoothly and boosts the bottom line, as training new employees takes time and is expensive.”

Legislation introduced last year would allow workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, between 5 and 9 days a year depending on employer size, to care for their own illness, an ill family member, or to attend medical appointments. It would also allow leave to handle domestic or sexual violence, and if an employee’s place of business is closed or the school of an employee’s child has been closed due to a public health emergency. The legislation has the backing of a majority of the city’s aldermen.

Nationwide, the momentum for paid sick days is undeniable, as more and more elected officials and candidates are recognizing it’s a winning economic issue—and a winning political issue. Sixty percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for candidates and elected officials who support these policies.

In his State of the Union, President Obama called on local elected leaders to pass legislation that ensures their workers can earn up to seven paid sick days. And with bi-partisan support, cities and states are responding to the call to make sure fewer working people are forced to choose between their health and their jobs. Philadelphia became the 17th city to pass paid sick days last week, just one week after Tacoma, Washington.

In Chicago, early voting on the referendum is possible through February 21st at any of 51 sites. For more information, visit the Earned Sick Time Chicago website.


The Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition includes: Action Now, Arise Chicago, Between Friends, Chicago Foundation for Women, EverThrive Illinois, Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, Jobs with Justice, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, National Employment Lawyers Association – IL, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Rape Victim Advocates, Restaurant Opportunities Center – Chicago, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law,  OUR Walmart, Women Employed, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago  AFSCME Council 31, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, Chicago Teachers Union, Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, Illinois Education Association Region 67, Illinois Federation of Teachers, National Nurses United, SEIU Healthcare IL and Indiana, SEIU Local 73, Teamsters 743, Teamsters 777, United Auto Workers Region 4, United Auto Workers Local 2320, United Steel Workers District 7, UFCW Local 881, UFCW Local 1546, Unite-Here Local 1, Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago/Fight for Fifteen, WorkersUnited. 

About Women Employed

Women Employed mobilizes people and organizations to expand educational and employment opportunities for America’s working women. Founded in 1973, we have spent four decades opening doors, breaking barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women. Visit us on social media at FacebookTwitterPinterest, and LinkedIn.