Monday, March 8, 2010

Why is the U.S. so far behind?

by Erin Bennett, Colorado Organizer for 9to5

Today, on International Women’s Day, I’ve thought a lot about the issues we work on at 9to5, especially compared to how the rest of the developed world operates. Two particular stories come to mind…

In February of 2009, 9to5 Colorado was fortunate enough to have three visitors from a women’s organization in Osaka, Japan. They were so interested to hear about all of our work, especially around paid leave. They informed us that in Japan, women can take 3 PAID days off a month for menstruation, if they wish – so they were obviously shocked that we don’t even have a standard of paid sick days for all. They told us that not many women take advantage of this opportunity, but it is there if needed.

Paid sick days are very much the same in our own country. On average, workers who do have access to paid sick days use only a couple days a year – much less than the amount they accrue. So, why accrue so many days? Just in case, like a rainy day fund. You never know when you might get sick and need to be in the hospital, or when you might get H1N1 flu and be out of work for two weeks, or when your kids get sick and you have to stay home with them.

At the very beginning of 2010, we started a Facebook group called “Support Paid Sick Days Colorado.” A man from Germany, Karl Mund, joined our group and posted his story on our wall:

As a shop-steward for most of my work-life in Germany (East and West), I never had to argue about questions like sick leave. My father's generation already succeeded in that fight, when West Germany got a law securing fully paid sick leave for 6 weeks per year with job security.

In this respect, I consider it a shame for the State of Colorado (and similarly other US-states) if such an ultra-modest demand as yours is not met with immediate approval.

Anyway, a healthy workforce is in the own interest of employers. Were they really smart, they would put pressure on State legislature even more than you folks do in order to get a decent legislation for healthy workers in healthy workplaces!

Keep up your fight, and be sure, you have my solidarity!

As the 2010 Legislative session began, this support from someone half-way around the world was much-needed motivation! An issue that Paid Sick Days is a no-brainer for the women from Osaka and for Karl. Why can’t it be for businesses and legislators in Colorado?

Why is the U.S. the only country in the developed world without Paid Sick Days? On International Women’s Day this year, we need to look to other countries and examine why we are so behind and what we can do to catch up.

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