Last week we celebrated Labor Day, and we welcomed an important step forward for American workers, with the President’s announcement that federal contractors will be required to provide up to seven days in paid sick leave.
This is wonderful news for some 300,000 Americans, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Millions of private-sector workers – including 45 percent of the Ohio workforce – are still left unprotected.
These workers face agonizing dilemmas.
Do they send a sick child to school, knowing they’re risking the health of their child and infecting other children, or do they jeopardize their job by taking a day off? Do they go into work with the flu, risking their own health and that of their coworkers, or do they stay home and lose a paycheck?
This is a choice too many families still face. Ohioans should not have to choose between a paycheck and their health, or the health of a child.
That’s why this spring I helped introduce the Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee paid sick and family leave for all Americans.
My bill would allow all workers to earn up to seven days per year in paid sick time. This is a public health issue. We know that adults without paid sick days are one and a half times more likely than adults with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
This plan would not only be good for workers—it would also be good for businesses. Providing sick days decreases turnover, and gives employers safer, more stable workplaces and healthier, more productive employees.
And most importantly, paid sick leave would increase economic security for millions of families. Parents would no longer be forced to risk their jobs to take care of sick children, and would have the peace of mind that one illness would not result in a lost paycheck.
Ohioans work hard to support their families. They often work long hours, for wages that have not gone up fast enough. We owe it to our workers to give them a day to recover when they sick.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.