In Portland, Oregon, nearly 3,000 Working America members have signed letters urging our Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance requiring businesses to allow workers to earn sick days.
Many of our members were surprised to learn that 40 percent of private-sector workers and 80 percent of low-income workers in Portland don’t have earned sick days on the job. Others knew first hand just how difficult not having sick days can be.
“Nina”* is a single parent of a toddler son and works full time as a childcare provider. She’s responsible for a classroom of 10 two-year olds and does not earn sick days. When she gets sick – and in her line of work, she is often exposed to illness – or her son falls ill, she has limited options: She can keep her son in her classroom where she can’t care for him properly, or leave work without pay.
Others in the service industry, where 74 percent of folks do not get earned sick time, have told us about their struggles. Ariel, a waiter at a local Portland spot recently injured her foot and was unable to work. “If I had been able to know that I could use sick days and there would be no repercussions, it would be so much easier to heal,” she said, “I have to wonder, am I going to get fired? Now I have a $100 doctor’s note and no money coming in.”
This story has become all too common among our members, which is why we are taking the thousands of letters down to city hall to demand that Portland workers are treated fairly and share the stories of those who need to be able to take time off when they or their child or family member are ill.
Earned sick days are good for the community, good for business, and good for working families. Everybody gets sick, everybody deserves time to heal.
(*Nina is a name changed to protect her identity – she was worried about workplace retaliation.)