President Obama 4It’s hard to believe that workers are still fighting for such a basic human right in 2015, but yesterday marked an important bit of progress in the age old battle to secure fair treatment for American workers. In a move that is expected to help 300,000 workers, President Obama issued a Labor Day executive order requiring federal contractors to allow their employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick days per year.

This is from a fact sheet distributed yesterday by the White House:

“In most families today, both parents work and have responsibilities caring for their children, aging parents, or family members with disabilities.  Yet the fundamental structure of work has not kept pace with the changing American family, and many families are struggling to balance obligations at home and on the job. As a result, too many workers are unable to take the time they need to recover from an illness. Many workers will go to work sick, putting their coworkers and customers at risk of illness. Many parents are forced to choose between taking an unpaid day off work—losing much needed income and potentially threatening their jobs—and sending a sick child who should be home in bed to school.

Today, the President will sign an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year.  He will travel to Boston to renew his call on Congress to pass legislation expanding paid sick and family leave, and announce new Department of Labor rules giving federal contract workers new tools to demand equal pay.”

Though a welcome and absurdly overdue step, President Obama’s order is — like so many of actions of late — badly hamstrung by the failure of Congress to act on the issue. The sad and simple truth, of course, is that the United States is the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t make paid sick days a basic guarantee for all workers. Thanks to the power of business lobbyists, millions of American workers and their families suffer each year as sick people troop unnecessarily (and at great risk to public health) to work and school. As Chris Fitzsimon points out in this morning’s “Numbers” column, more than a million of these workers are right here in North Carolina.

So, the bottom line: Thank you, President Obama, for again doing what you can to nudge the nation forward. Too bad the rest of the powers that be in the nation’s capital remain happily mired in the ideology and policies of the 19th Century.

Learn more about the fight for paid sick days in North Carolina by clicking here.


Thom_Tillis_official_portraitIf the simple and undeniable fact that lots of humans fail at basic hygiene procedures without reminders and rules isn’t enough to convince Senator Thom Tillis of the need for “burdensome” hand washing rules in restaurants (see the post below), here’s another fact that you would think would be persuasive: the widespread lack of paid sick days laws. Thanks to Tillis and his conservative friends, the U.S. is one of a small handful of countries that doesn’t guarantee workers some paid time off when they or a family member gets sick. Needless to say, North Carolina doesn’t require them either.

The result, of course, is that lots of people come to work — including in restaurants and other businesses in which they interact with the public — sick and contagious. Given such an absurd situation, you’d think the least Tillis and his fellow ideologues could do is toss the public a bone in the form of support for strong hygiene laws.

Absent some kind of turnaround on the Senator’s part, however, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. According to Typhoid Thom and his fellow ideologues, the “genius of the market” will take care of the problem since consumers will stop patronizing restaurants where people are known to get sick.

All of which begs the question, of course, of whether we should also repeal such rules for hygiene in other private businesses like hospitals and other health care facilities. Maybe the senator can clarify his position on such a question in the coming days. We can’t wait.


FamilyNot  according to a new and detailed report from the wonks at the Center for Economic and Policy Research that examined the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (or FLI)  program. The program allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave (capped at $595 a week in 2014) to care for new babies, seriously ill relatives, or themselves. It is paid for by a small tax (up to 60 cents a week) on employees.

Among the major findings:

  • None of the participating employers reported that the Family Leave Insurance program affected their productivity or turnover.
  • Only two of 18 employers felt the program negatively affected their profitability.
  • Some participants found that the program improved employees’ morale. Read More