It’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.