Workers Need a Better Choice

No one should be forced to choose between taking care of a sick child and a paycheck. No one should have to decide between going to work with the flu and not having enough money to pay rent.

Yet in Connecticut many workers face these dilemmas every single day, torn between taking care of themselves or a loved one and making ends meet.

This isn’t just an issue of fairness. It’s also a public health matter.  Too often a sick child is sent to school because their parents either can’t afford to lose a day’s pay or worse yet, lose their job.  Another potential result: the illness spreads to classmates and teachers.

In 2011, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a paid sick days law. The law only covered a narrow segment of service sector workers in companies with more than fifty employees. Nonetheless, this bill established our state as a national leader in labor rights, recognizing that workers should not face these difficult choices.

Being the first, however, meant we were breaking new ground without the benefit of data that would demonstrate the impact on businesses.

As a result, the statute was limited. Only 12% of Connecticut employees are covered under our existing paid sick days law. Although many businesses offer paid sick days, or paid time off (PTO) , too many Connecticut workers can’t afford to get sick. It is time for the Legislature to expand the coverage and make sure this is no longer the case.

We know that businesses can afford to do it, because other states have passed paid sick days legislation following Connecticut’s lead. Each of these bills covers a larger share of workers; New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and New Mexico include all workers. In each of these states, the impact on businesses has been negligible, and workers have thrived. Employees no longer must make the choice between buying groceries or taking care of a sick child.

Last year, the State Senate voted in support of SB1178 a bill that would have expanded paid sick day to cover nearly all private sector employers and employees. It also would have increased the rate at which employees accrued the leave, The legislative session, however. closed before the bill came before the House of Representatives.

As Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, my priority this session will be to ensure that every worker in Connecticut is eligible for up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year. We need this. Our families need this. Let’s get it done.

First elected in 2018, State Senator Julie Kushner (24th State Senate District) represents Ridgefield’s northern half, Danbury, and a portion of New Fairfield.

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