Why Paid Sick Days are a Feminist Issue


Working an office “9 to 5 job” has always been challenging for me. I hate dress codes, my internal body clock works best at night and it’s hard for me to sit still in one place for 8 hours…let alone 8 minutes. However, now that I freelance full-time (which is a blessing but it ain’t no joke) I do miss certain perks: offline socialization, bi-weekly pay checks and especially paid sick days.

Think about those days where you have a throbbing headache, you’re coughing up funky chunky stuff, you have tissues stuck up your nose to stop it from running, your stomach is keeping you tied to the toilet, your uterus is ripping apart…or you’re just flat out exhausted, physically and mentally. Many working people are able to pick up the phone, call their boss and have the security of taking care of themselves without losing a full day’s wages.

However a large part of the working population such as domestic workers, food service/waitstaff, and retail employees in New York City do not have this luxury. Not only are they not likely to have health insurance, they certainly don’t have sick days. This specifically hits home for many women,especially women of color and/or immigrant women, who are often caretakers for their families in addition to being breadwinners. Many women have to choose between earning money to provide basic necessities for themselves and their family, or staying home sick or with a sick family member. It’s not really much of a choice, is it?

Right now this issue is gaining awareness thanks to the Paid Sick Days campaign which is mobilizing New Yorkers, especially women, to pressure the City Council to vote on a piece of legislation that would require businesses with five or more employees to provide 5 sick days to their employees. What’s holding back this vote is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Speaker Quinn has been an advocate of many women’s rights issues and undoubtedly is depending on women to support her during her run to be the first woman mayor of New York City next year. However she is blocking this legislation from coming to a vote in the city council despite overwhelming support for paid sick days. There is enough support that the city council to override Bloomberg if he tries to veto it if/when the vote goes through.

She claims that this legislation is costly for businesses. Let’s call bullshit. Here’s how much paid sick days would cost businesses according to theInstitute for Women’s Policy Research:

“In an October 2009 report using government data, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated the cost of implementing an earned paid sick time measure in New York City at 15 cents per hour worked for smaller firms and 23 cents per hour worked for larger firms.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the cost of providing paid sick time at 1.1 percent of total compensation for private industry workers in the New York area. This is a small cost compared to the productivity, employee retention, and health savings gains associated with paid sick time.”

In short, small or large companies would not be going belly up, nor would even be stressed out, if this legislation is passed.

What’s actually costly is running a mayoral campaign. Think about placing ads, making appearances, and importance of having powerful friends in the right places. These business bigwigs don’t want to be forced to shell out a little extra dough for their employees’ health…yes, those employees whose underpaid and undervalued work is lining their overflowing pockets. We already know Bloomberg’s connection to big business so it’s not hard to imagine that she wants to be in good graces with him and his donors.

As much as Speaker Quinn may need these rich businessfolk, she needs progressive women voters who are not playing politics with real people’s lives. I’m not impressed seeing her at events supporting the Affordable Care Act, or abortion funds, if she is going to throw women, particularly low-income women, women of color and/or immigrant women under the bus for her political aspirations. *arms folded* Perhaps that’s harsh so let me step back: this is an opportunity for NYC residents to show big business that we will not let them push around our politicians while they continue to take advantage of us as a workforce. We are pushing back.

So what can we as constituents do? There are a couple of online petitions that take literally one minute to sign:

Coalition petition for paid sick days:

Signon.org petition from Gloria Steinem:

You can also support by spreading the word by posting articles and resources on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, whatever outlets you use. Specifically if you’re on Twitter, follow the campaign using the hashtag: #paidsickdays and you can tweet directly to Speaker Quinn at @ChrisCQuinn and let her know that if she wants your vote then she needs to allow the city council to vote for paid sick days.



Feministe / By jaz

Posted at August 18, 2012, 8:28am

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