New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the tireless work of paid sick days advocates and thoughtful lawmakers across the country is making a real difference for workers. Sixty-four percent of private sector workers now have access to at least one paid sick day per year, compared to 61 percent in 2015. That’s the highest share the nation has ever seen.
This progress is due in large part to the rapid rise in public policies that have taken effect since the last time these data were collected, including in California, Massachusetts, Oregon and the cities of Emeryville, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Bloomfield, Elizabeth, New Brunswick and Trenton, N.J. Private employers increasingly choosing to offer paid sick days has certainly helped too.
Especially encouraging is that, according to an analysis by U.S. Department of Labor Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz, there has been considerable progress among workers with average wages in the bottom 25 percent. Thirty-nine percent of these lower-income workers now have access to paid sick days – an eight-point increase. This is great news for these workers, who are often most in need of paid sick time.
Despite this real progress, more than 41 million workers – 36 percent of the private sector workforce – still don’t have access to even one paid sick day. And even though the numbers are improving, 73 percent of the lowest-wage workers (those paid $9.37 per hour or less) cannot earn paid sick days. That’s in stark contrast to the 13 percent of the highest-wage workers (those paid $44.33 per hour or more) without paid sick days.
Access to paid sick days shouldn’t depend on where you live, how much you are paid, or whether you’re lucky enough to win the “boss lottery.” And persistent disparities in access are a clear sign that the United States needs a federal standard, like the one proposed in the Healthy Families Act, which is currently before Congress and co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.).
Tens of millions of workers and their families need all of us to take action to help make the Healthy Families Act a reality. It’s easy to take action right now by visiting WeTweet.org/PSD and sending a tweet to your members of Congress urging them to support the bill. To learn more about other ways you can help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.