The Next Front In The Battle For Paid Sick Leave

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On Wednesday, Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, religious, and community groups, filed a proposed ballot question that would guarantee that the state’s workers have access to paid sick leave. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) is the lead petitioner. Business owners, workers, community leaders, and clergy members also submitted their signatures.

The group’s proposal would allow workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked with a cap at 40 hours a year.

State law requires that ten voters sign an initiative petition, and then the state Attorney General must approve both questions. After that approval, the Secretary of State will provide petition forms to the organizers, who must get 200,000 supporter signatures by December 4.

The same group also filed a petition to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour by 2016 and raise the wage for tipped workers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the lead signer for that initiative.

Raise Up Massachusetts calculates that nearly 1 million workers in the state don’t have access to paid time off when they or a loved one falls ill. Many workers across the country face a similar dilemma: 40 percent of private sector workers can’t take a paid day off when they get sick, including 80 percent of low-income workers.

Massachusetts is the latest state to be home to the growing movement for paid sick leave. New York City recently passed a bill that will guarantee paid sick days, the largest city in the country, joining four other cities — Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC; and Portland, Oregon — and the state of Connecticut.

While opponents often raise concerns about the costs of such laws to businesses, many studies have found they have either a neutral or even positive effect. A recent audit of Washington, DC’s law found no negative impact on businesses. A study of San Francisco’s policy found little negative effect and strong business support and was even found to have spurred job growth. In Connecticut, there has been little cost and big potential upsides.

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