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The fight for paid sick days

Most employees around the country do not have legally guaranteed paid sick days from their employer. While the Family Medical Leave Act guarantees eligible employees unpaid leave to take care of ill loved ones, there is no national law that guarantees paid sick leave for individual employees. The fight for legally guaranteed paid sick leave is being fought across the United States, and Wisconsin has been actively involved but not successful.

Milwaukee successfully passed a paid sick day ordinance for the city in 2008, but as we have previously reported Governor Scott Walker nullified the ordinance by passing a state law. The governor explained that "patchwork government mandates stifle job creation and economic opportunity." Business supporters echo Walker's sentiment and say requiring sick pay during a touch economy is the wrong move. Proponents of labor say workers could finally feel financially safe to take a day off for illness.

According to a University of Chicago study about 64 percent of workers in the United States are eligible for paid sick days; however, only 47 percent of employees receive paid sick days they can use to care for themselves or family members and thirty-six percent have specific sick days rather than paid time off. Low-wage earners have less opportunity for paid sick days. Only 19 percent of workers who are in the bottom 10 percent of wage-earners have paid time off.

The cities of Washington D.C. and San Francisco require businesses to offer paid sick days and the law there has had little influence on businesses, but critics of the laws say the cities are too small to accurately gauge the economics. Connecticut has recently become the first state to require paid sick days and offers the first chance for the question of economic viability to be addressed on the state level.

Source: Today, "Can a paid sick leave plan go national?" Eve Tahmincioglu, 6/5/11

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