This article was incredibly enjoyable to write, believe it or not! I attended the rally (cited in the article). I’m usually not one for large gatherings like protests, etc, but it was a wonderful experience, hearign the pov’s of strangers, and being challenged. Challenge is sometimes necessary. Anyway, on with the article!
**I’m not allowed to use photos from the Tufts Daily article as they appear online and in print, so most of the photos on this blog from here on will either be my own, or be credited in the caption**
Mass. legislature to consider paid sick days for employees
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 07:04
An act that would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers may become law in coming weeks.
The Labor and Workforce Development Committee of the Massachusetts State Senate in mid-March supported the Earned Paid Sick Time Act which would grant paid sick leave to Massachusetts employees.
The act would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers, according to Steve Crawford, a representative from the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, a group that advocates for paid sick days for workers statewide.
With public political support from both Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), the act has the potential to become law in the coming weeks.
The goal of the bill, according to its literature, is to require businesses in Massachusetts to provide employees with paid sick leave based on the number of hours they have worked, regardless of part-time or full-time employment. Such a bill does not cover seasonal employees, according to Jehlen.
Vice President of Tufts Human Resources Kathe Cronin. said it is unclear whether the act would apply to temporary and student employees.
“Much legislation regarding employment does not [apply to temporary and student] employees; an example of that would be the federal Family [and] Medical Leave Act, which applies to full time ‘regular’ employees only,” Cronin told the Daily in an email. “Tufts current sick time policies for regular staff employees is already richer than what is being proposed in the bill, and we would continue offering these benefits.”
“Tufts believes in the benefit of paid sick time and offers very good paid sick time benefits to staff employees; this practice has been in effect for many, many years,” she added.
According to the Tufts Employee Handbook, after three months of employment, non-exempt employees are eligible for 13 paid sick days per year, with a total of 91 hours each year. Exempt employees are eligible for up to six months of paid sick days. Non-exempt employees, according to the handbook, are paid on an hourly basis with eligibility for overtime pay, whereas exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis, without overtime potential.
According to the proposed bill, businesses with more than ten employees are required to allow each employee one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a cap at 56 hours annually. Employees of business with staffs of six to ten also earns one hour per 30 hours worked, and a business with less than six employees would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid leave annually.
“I think Tufts students would benefit from knowing that the person cooking at a restaurant isn’t coughing into the soup,” Jehlen told the Daily.
Jehlen pointed out that, given the employment demographic of the individuals who would be affected by the bill, supporting it is necessary.
“It’s a public health issue,” she said. “Most of the affected individuals are low-wage workers in human resources, food services, retail. People who don’t get paid sick days go to work sick.”
The original bill was proposed to the Labor and Workforce Development Committee in the Senate in January 2011 with Jehlen’s approval and assistance, and then was agreed upon by the House of Representatives. In July, it was heard by the joint branches, and the new draft was assembled in the House last month.
Jehlen explained that the version of the bill currently in front of committees is a pared down version of previous editions and the result of the work of countless individuals and research.
“We’ve been talking about these things and whittling them down,” Jehlen said.
“I’ve been working on the issue of paid leave for twenty years, and this is the closest we’ve come, and the least we asked for,” Jehlen said, noting that the bill was filed for the first time a year and a half ago. “There are lots of people on the outside who want paid sick days. There are many organizations, co-sponsorships, chairmen.”
MPLC is one such organization, with union councils and branches among its membership organizations, including the Greater Boston Labor Council. On March 27, activists and allies rallied outside the statehouse in Boston to create more public awareness for the bill and garner public support. Economists praising the bill’s necessity and ingenuity, alongside laborers and local political figures, came out in support of the bill.
According to Crawford, the next step for the bill’s creation into law is its success with the Healthcare Financing Committee in senate.
“If it passes, it goes to the Ways and Means Committee, then to the floor of the house,” Crawford said.
Maria Colón, a Boston-area children’s worker, was among those in attendance at the rally. Colón detailed the many cases of illness she has witnessed, often the result of contamination.
Colón told the Daily that, in years past, she was fired from a position as a short-order cook because she came in sick to work one day. Her place of employment did not offer sick days for regular employees.
“The claims of the bill are legitimate,” she said. “This needs to be law.”