Heard on the Hill: The Healthy Families Act Promotes Economic Security & Public Health

by | Oct 12, 2010 | Paid Sick Days

As members of Congress campaign for votes at home, the National Partnership for Women & Families and two of our key allies have been hard at work educating Congressional staff about the public health and economic security case for paid sick days policies.

On September 30, the National Partnership and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) were honored to sponsor a House of Representatives briefing hosted by the always-compelling Representative Rosa DeLauro, a longtime champion of the Healthy Families Act. Sticking around Washington after Congress adjourned to speak to the standing-room-only crowd, DeLauro vowed to fight to pass the Healthy Families Act in the 112th Congress.

The briefing included the release of ROC’s new report Serving While Sick, the largest study of U.S. restaurant workers ever undertaken. This groundbreaking research finds that nearly 90 percent of all restaurant workers report having no paid sick days, and that over 63 percent report having cooked or served food while sick. That means your coffee, donut, salad, or sandwich was likely to have been handled by someone suffering from an illness.

To make the point that paid sick days help businesses’ bottom lines, Holly Howard, a restaurateur from Brooklyn, spoke. Howard said that since her restaurant, Egg, started offering paid sick days, its turnover rate is just 30 percent, compared to the 200 percent industry standard. Worker turnover costs the restaurant about $1000 per employee, so low turnover saves a lot of cash.

On October 5, the National Partnership and MomsRising co-sponsored a Senate briefing to demonstrate why paid sick time matters to the health and economic security of families. MomsRising presented the videojournal of one of its members, “Corby,” who explained that she faces disciplinary action if her company finds that she used a sick day to care for a sick child, and shared stories from its members’ story book. Tom W. Smith from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago presented survey findings showing overwhelming support for a law that provides access to earned paid sick days — and troubling data about workers’ increased likelihood of going to work sick, sending a sick child to school, or using an ER instead of a primary care doctor when they lack access to paid sick days.

Now is the time to act. During Congressional recess, tell your Members of Congress what Americans already know: a paid sick days law helps workers, helps families, and helps business. Everyone gets sick, but not everyone has time to get better. We can’t afford to keep risking our health and workers’ economic security by waiting much longer.