We Can’t Afford to Wait Any Longer for Paid Sick Days in Pittsburgh

February 15, 2018 -- Partnership for Working Families

With the flu ravaging the U.S. this year, it is more critical than ever that Pittsburgh can provide paid sick days to ill employees

Pittsburgh, PA—This morning, Mayor Peduto, Councilman O’Connor, SEIU 32BJ, Pittsburgh United, Women’s Law Project and several others held a press conference to stress how important it is for the PA Supreme Court to allow Pittsburgh’s 2015 Paid Sick Days law to take effect. They were supported by women’s advocates, health care providers, labor unions, religious leaders, community groups, medical associations, and public health organizations who also appear as amici curiae or friends of the court.

“Giving workers the right to earn paid sick days is good for public health, for families, for businesses, and for the local economy,” said Councilman O’Connor, who introduced and passed the law in 2015. “This is about the City of Pittsburgh taking care of our most vulnerable residents, and acting responsibly to do all that we can to keep contagious illnesses like influenza to a minimum. Our City needs to have the ability to address the health of our residents, and I applaud Mayor Peduto for continuing to fight to implement the Paid Sick Days Act,” added O’Connor. 

An estimated 3 million workers per week in the U.S. go to work sick. During the 2009 flu pandemic, the CDC estimated that infected employees who went to work caused an additional 7 million cases of flu, leading to 1,500 deaths. Today, as a the 2018 flu outbreak claims up to 4,000 Americans per week, Pittsburgh’s inability to implement paid sick days as a proven disease control strategy puts all city residents in peril.

And, it’s not just workers who are affected; children suffer from lack of paid sick days as well. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, “Access to paid sick days allows parents to get their children essential preventive care. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six well-child visits – check-ups – in the first year of life, three in the second, and 17 from ages 2 through 21. However, fewer than half of U.S. children are getting adequate preventive care. When parents have paid sick days, they are able to take their children to well-child visits and for immunizations, which may prevent serious illnesses.”

Susan J. Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project and author of the amici brief, which has been signed by 50 organizations devoted to women’s health and safety, said: “Pittsburgh has ample authority as a home rule municipality to enact a public health ordinance addressing disease prevention and control, such as the paid sick days ordinance,” says. “This measure is a common sense health regulation that is proven to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. What could be more important during flu season?”

Although businesses like Church Brew Works and Storms Restaurant claim loudly that providing paid sick days is too expensive, studies have repeatedly shown the opposite.  According to a February 13th article in the Washington Post, Employers who don’t offer paid sick leave are making flu season worse and hurting their own bottom line, “Although employers who don’t currently offer paid sick leave might balk at the costs, a substantial body of research suggests paid sick days might effectively pay for themselves by reducing overall rates of absenteeism.”

 It is more important than ever that the city of Pittsburgh is able to enact legislation that responds to the community’s needs. An estimated 49,000 hardworking Pittsburgh city residents have no ability to stay home when sick. And, the lack of paid sick days poses an especially enormous economic burden on low-wage workers, who are overwhelmingly women and people of color.

“Preventing the city of Pittsburgh from implementing this law reflects a disturbing trend of corporations and states interfering with the ability of local governments to protect the health and wellbeing of their residents,” said Miya Saika Chen, staff attorney with the Partnership for Working Families. “Women, particularly low-income women of color, are the least likely to have paid sick days. Blocking this paid sick days law would further perpetuate gender and racial inequality.”

“A few days of lost pay can mean losing an entire month’s worth of groceries or health care expenses for a typical family without paid sick days. Since Black workers are paid less, on average, than white workers, getting sick can have devastating economic consequences–particularly for women and people of color.” said Mica Williams, legal fellow at New Voices Pittsburgh. “No one should lose a job or income because of an illness they couldn’t avoid. No parent should have to choose between her job and taking care of a sick child.”

Read more here: http://www.pittsburghunited.org/psdrelease/