Commentary

Another sobering anniversary in NC’s ongoing war on workers

From the good people at the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project:

Business owners, legislators, and working moms gathered at the General Assembly on Wednesday to mark the 10-year “Unhappy Anniversary” of The Healthy Families & Workplaces/Paid Sick Days Act – legislation that has been introduced every year over the last decade, but has never seen a vote. This legislation would provide every working North Carolinians the opportunity to earn time off to care for themselves and their families.

Anyone can get sick or see a loved one fall ill but North Carolina’s outdated employment laws don’t allow workers to earn paid sick days, and more than 1.6 million North Carolinians do not have jobs that provide them this important benefit.

That’s why lawmakers introduced The Healthy Families & Workplaces/Paid Sick Days Act. The legislation would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked for up to four days of leave for employees of small businesses and up to seven days for employees of medium and larger businesses.

“North Carolina needs to do much better by Tar Heel workers and their families,” said Beth Messersmith, campaign director for MomsRising and NC Families Care Coalition leader. “Paid sick day policies not only help ensure families’ economic security, they benefit businesses, the state economy, and public health.”

Paid sick leave is also good for business, as it can help reduce the spread of illness, improve employee productivity, and save employers money. Jay Murrie owns Piedmont Wine Imports in Durham and already offers paid sick leave to his full-time employees.

“People are the fabric of the business,” Murrie said. “Because the health of the individual is essential to the growth of any organization, the core activity of a company must be to protect the health of the individual. Not to do the legal minimum, but to make the viable maximum a part of the mission statement of the organization. To that end we consider paid sick leave a necessity.”

Four out of every 10 workers in North Carolina doesn’t have a job that provides paid sick days. Most of them work in industries that pay ultra-low wages and require direct contact with customers, such as food preparation and home healthcare. In fact, 60 percent of workers without paid sick days earn less than $20,000 a year, meaning many of them cannot afford to miss a paycheck when they are sick.

“Ten years is far too long for the working people of North Carolina to wait for relief,” said Senator Angela Bryant, lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “This bill would be a boost to all working North Carolinians, especially those who are raising children. It’s time my colleagues in the legislature gave this bill the hearing our constituents deserve.”

“Providing paid sick days is good for workers, businesses, and the entire economy,” said Allan Freyer, director of the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project. “More than a million workers in North Carolina have to choose between their health–or the health of their children–and their job. Too many workers cannot afford to make this choice. It’s past time we fixed these anti-family policies.”

 

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