Solidarity Committee

Coalition Calls on Legislators to Ensure Earned Sick Time for All

Workers, small business owners, and health care officials testified at a legislative hearing today in favor of a bill to allow all Massachusetts workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. The hearing highlighted the widespread support for this legislation, which will help over one million Massachusetts workers, almost one third of the state’s workforce, who are currently unable to take a single sick day to care for themselves or their families, without risk of being fired.

“As a Personal Care Attendant and a health care worker I am committed to providing the best care possible to my client,” said Emily Rodriguez. “I do this work because I care about people and I want everyone to be able to live full, healthy lives. Due to the lack of earned sick time there have been times I was sick with a virus and I had to go to work anyway. I could not afford to lose wages by calling out sick so I went to my consumer employer’s house to take care of him – which not only made me feel worse but also put him in danger of getting sick as well. As low wage health care workers, the only way we can provide the best care is if we are also able to care for ourselves.”

Senator Dan Wolf, lead sponsor of the bill, said he recognizes the value of earned sick time both as an elected official and a business owner. His company, Cape Air, started with six employees, has grown to over 1,000, and has always included earned sick time for employees.

“Earned sick time should be a standard for all businesses and a right for all workers,” said Wolf. “I’ve found with my own company, businesses are the true beneficiaries of earned sick time because it reduces employee turnover, keeps workers healthy and productive at work, and increases morale.”

Other cities and states across the country have adopted sick day policies to improve public health and ensure that when workers are sick they will not lose pay – or worse, their jobs. New York City has an earned sick time law, as does our neighboring state of Connecticut.

“Earned sick time legislation is a moral and economic imperative,” said State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who testified in favor of the bill today. “My family business has had it for more than 25 years and it has strengthened our entire workforce.”

“I support earned sick time as a matter of basic fairness for workers,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “When people get sick, they should be able to get treatment without being penalized at work. It also allows people to better seek preventive health care that will control health costs for businesses and families in the long-term.”

The earned sick time legislation is gaining momentum in Massachusetts and currently sits before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, which is co-chaired by Senator Wolf and Representative Tom Conroy. The bill heard today varies from the ballot question approved by the Attorney General to appear on the 2014 ballot.

“No Massachusetts worker should have to choose between caring for a family and earning a day’s pay,” said Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Clearly, our state needs a new basic workplace standard to accommodate the needs of today’s working families. If we believe in family values, then we should demonstrate that by valuing families and providing earned sick time.”

“We adopted our earned sick time policy at SnoOwl since learning about the bill from community members,” said Jasiel Correia, II, founder of SnoOwl and also a business incubator set to launch in Fall River in early October “By offering sick time to my workers, I show them that I respect their loyalty and value their commitment to this company. As a small business, it is the most important benefit I provide.”

“We proudly claim that Massachusetts residents have universal access to health care,” said Elizabeth Toulan, senior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. “The truth is that one out of every three Massachusetts workers earns no sick time and risks losing their job if they stay home sick or to care for a sick child.”

If the legislature fails to pass the pending bill, Raise Up Massachusetts, a statewide coalition of community, faith and labor organizations, will continue working toward putting earned sick time on the November 2014 ballot. Hundreds of volunteers skipped today’s hearing to be at the polls, gathering the signatures needed to place the question on next year’s ballot.

The ballot initiative protects workers from being fired if they need time off from work because they are sick or need to care for a sick child, parent, or spouse. Workers can also earn time for preventative care measures such as doctor’s appointments, eye exams, and yearly physicals.

“We always warn people to stay home if they’re sick. It’s a message you’ll hear us repeat more and more as flu season rolls around,” said Dr. Anita Barry, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission. “But the reality is that only works when people can afford to stay home. Too many folks, especially low-wage earners and people of color, run the risk of losing their jobs by following what we know is sensible public health advice, and that has to change. This is about more than public health. It’s about fairness. Earned sick time should be a basic right to all workers.”

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It’s Time to Raise Up Massachusetts — Take Action Today!


RaiseUpMA!TAKE ACTION TO RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE & SECURE EARNED SICK TIME!

Co-Chaired by SEIU Local 509 president Susan Tousignant, Raise Up Massachusetts is a coalition of more than 100 labor, faith, and community organizations working to place the minimum wage and earned sick time on the November 2014 ballot. If passed, we will raise living standards for more than a million working families in Massachusetts — including thousands of child care providers and human service workers represented by Local 509.

Human service workers have always fought to improve the quality of life for the clients and communities we serve. And with our help collecting the 200,000 signatures needed to place these measures on the ballot, we can win a real victory for all Bay State workers.

It’s time to take action —  to Raise Up Massachusetts. Here are a few ways human service workers can get involved in the fight:

 

  1. Sign up to collect signatures to place the Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Time on the 2014 ballot.
  2. Attend a RaiseUpMA event in your neighborhood or a nearby community.
  3. Stay up to date with the latest RaiseUpMA activities on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact Chris Condon at (617) 924-8509 x515 or email ccondon@seiu509.org.

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RaiseUpMA: Ballot Campaign Launches to Secure Earned Sick Time, Raise the Minimum Wage for Mass. Workers

Raise Up Massachusetts!

The campaign to secure earned sick time and increase the minimum wage is in full force across the commonwealth, as hundreds of workers, faith and community leaders rallied outside of the State House for the launch of Raise Up Massachusetts. Marked by rallies, protests and marches in local communities throughout Massachusetts, the statewide initiative is set to place these critical issues on the November 2014 ballot.

 More than a million workers in Massachusetts – almost one-third of the overall workforce – are at risk of losing the wages and jobs their families depend on if they stay home to care of themselves or a sick child. Another 580,000 workers stand to benefit from a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage, which would rise to $11 per hour and be indexed to inflation under the current ballot proposal. Workers most greatly impacted by the measures took center stage at the Raise Up Massachusetts launch, calling on supporters to take the fight for better wages and working conditions directly to the ballot box.

“I understand the struggle that people face when they have to choose between their own health and their paycheck,” said Freddy Reyes, who nearly lost his food service job after sustaining a serious injury at work. “I already live check-to-check, so I know the financial strain that comes with missing even a day of work. People shouldn’t live in fear of being penalized or fired for taking care of themselves or their families.”

Earned sick time benefits have been demonstrated to benefit businesses by reducing employee turnover and lost productivity. States and municipalities that have implemented earned sick time have seen job growth, and most employers report no negative impact on their profitability. Many economists, including those at the national Center for Economic & Policy Research, say that job retention policies such as earned sick time reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy – a point that was echoed by business owners at events throughout the commonwealth Thursday.

“People should be given time to take care of their well-being,” said Rob Everts, owner of Equal Exchange, based in West Bridgewater. “We have found that by providing employees a few days per year to go to the doctor or take care of their sick child, they are more productive at work, which in turn is good for the business.”

Bills that would provide all workers with earned sick time and increase the minimum wage are currently sitting before the legislature, waiting for a vote. Their chance to act is now.

Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) says he introduced his minimum wage legislation so that workers such as Freddy Reyes would no longer have to struggle just to make ends meet. The bill offers hope to nearly 600,000 low-wage workers, almost all of who still fall well under the federal poverty line despite working 40 or more hours each week.  One of every five is a parent, underscoring the real need for action.

“Minimum wage workers in Massachusetts have not had a raise since 2008, while earners at the top of the pay scale continue to see their salaries go up,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, who authored the bill to promote the Commonwealth’s economic recovery with a strong minimum wage. “My legislation is about providing economic justice to those hardworking people who are playing by the rules and going to work every day – sometimes to more than one minimum wage job – but who still are struggling to make ends meet. It also bolsters business by putting more purchasing power into the hands of individuals who must buy things in order to provide for their families.”

According to research conducted by the non-partisan Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center, a full-time worker in Massachusetts making the current minimum wage will earn just $16,000 per year. Housing and child care costs easily top this figure, let alone other basic needs.

“It’s just not possible for me to support myself and my children on this income,” said Melanie Brown, a mother of three who earns close to minimum wage despite having two degrees. “It’s a daily struggle to make ends meet – low-wage workers are long overdue for relief.”

If legislative leaders do not act on pending earned sick time and minimum wage legislation by the August 7 deadline, final language for the ballot questions will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General for approval. On September 18, the Secretary of the Commonwealth will provide official petition forms to be signed by 200,000 supporters – allowing the measure to be taken directly to Bay State voters on the November 2014 ballot. Massachusetts would be the first state in the country to secure earned sick through a ballot initiative.

For the latest information on the Raise Up Massachusetts ballot initiative, visit www.RaiseUpMA.org or follow #RaiseUpMA on Twitter.

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Solidarity Committee Launched

At our union’s Joint Executive Board meeting in August, we began the process of forming a Solidarity Committee for our union so that we can be more effective in supporting our union sisters and brothers at other locals.

We will be holding the first Solidarity Committee meeting on Thursday, December 8, 2011, in the conference room of Local 509’s offices at 100 Talcott Ave. in Watertown. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and teleconference is available. Please dial in around 6:55 so that you are on the line when the meeting commences.

Following is the motion passed by the Joint Executive Board, 8/9/11: “(motion) that SEIU Local 509 form a Solidarity Committee, to work collaboratively with other Labor Unions, Jobs With Justice, Labor Councils and other labor-friendly groups, with the purpose of defending the principles of trade unionism, working towards social justice, and uniting our own members to help our Sisters and Brothers in times of action, such as walking picket lines and attending pro-worker rallies.”

If you have any questions or want anything placed on the agenda, please e-mail me or call me on my cell, (781) 883-7519.

On behalf of the Solidarity Committee,
Dennis MacDonald, Member, Local 509

Other Solidarity Committee members:
Jon Grossman, Staff, Local 509
Pricilla Lynch, Member, Local 509
Brian Morrison, Member, Local 509
Jennifer Rosenlund, Member, Local 509

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