Teamsters

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Paid Sick Leave Still Eludes Many Workers

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The push for paid sick leave is gaining traction. Five states already mandate it and others are considering it. But as it stands, it is currently more available to some workers then others.

A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics release shows that only 41 percent of those whose wages are in the bottom quarter have access to such paid leave, compared to 87 percent of those in the top quarter of earners. The data demonstrates that those who need the benefit the most have the least access to it.

So while it was good to see, for instance, the Obama administration earlier this year issue rules mandating federal contractors provide paid sick time to their employees, which increased its availability to more than 825,000 people nationwide, it doesn’t solve the problem.

There will be more struggles along the way. In Massachusetts, an effort to approve legislation before the session ended recently failed. But advocates can’t give up. They need to learn from those in Michigan, where those behind a failed ballot initiative to require paid sick leave are now trying again.

That’s the kind of determination it’s going to take to get this through legislatures from coast to coast. Worker advocates have seen what’s happened in the fight to significantly raise the minimum wage. At first, some officials outright laughed at such efforts. But now it’s spreading from city to city, county to county and even state to state. Even several conservative states have taken steps to raise the pay floor of their states.

Of course, a real solution would be the creation of a federal standard. That’s where workers can have input. They need to look at the candidates up and down the ballot in November to see if they are on the side of everyday Americans or just the corporate class. That’s how real change will be made.

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