March 31, 2011
Lauren Townsend 215-939-7621 (c)
Earned Sick Days Campaign
Philadelphia--Dr. James Plumb, a national public health expert, is deeply concerned about the impact that governmental policy decisions have on his patients in Philadelphia. Plumb is a practicing physician and professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Director of the Center for Urban Health at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital. He spoke soberly at a news conference this morning sponsored by the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces held outside the Philadelphia City Council Chambers.
“I am frequently perplexed by the lack of sensible policies that affect the health and well-being of so many citizens; citizens who struggle to make ends meet, raise healthy families, and be responsible employees,” said Dr. Plumb. “In a city with marked racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, absence of paid sick leave may be an important factor perpetuating these disparities.”
“When employees go to work sick they are less productive, take longer to get well, and risk infecting their co-workers, “ emphasized Plumb. “These workers are often in jobs that require a high degree of contact with the public – like restaurant workers and caretakers of both children and the elderly. Many illnesses are highly contagious and can spread through the workplace quite easily. About 40% of workers contract the flu from a co-worker. Of the 18 million norovirus (stomach flu) infections nationally, ½ come from ill food service workers.”
In his testimony before Council, Dr. Plumb noted that paid sick days allow families to take time off to care for a sick child or elder in the home. When a child or elderly adult in the home is sick, workers are faced with the decision to stay home and lose pay, or go to work and leave a loved one home alone sick and in a potentially unsafe situation.
Dr. Plumb’s comments were echoed by Dina Yarmus and Tiffany Lomax, who shared their own stories as workers fortunate enough to have sick days.
"Restaurant work involves long days on your feet, often doing the work of two people, and the emotional labor of keeping guests happy," said Yarmus, who works at the Radisson Warwick Hotel. "We interact with many different people and their germs everyday. We sometimes get sick.” Yarmus concluded, “The public is better served by a social policy that doesn't pressure working class people to come to work even when they’re sick and talk to you at your tables and touch your food.”
Tiffany Lomax's need for sick days has more to do with her child than her own illnesses. “Earned paid sick days have been a blessing to me and my 14 year old son as he has severe asthma, allergies and a history of seizures. I work full-time and attend night classes at Temple University and will be applying to law school next year, but before I had sick days, I lost three different jobs due to taking time to care for him. This is an important and necessary bill to support because it will ensure single parents and mothers with sick children can remain gainfully employed as I am. Earned sick days have allowed me to manage my son’s health needs as well as maintain my job.”
The campaign to win Earned Sick Days includes a growing coalition of more than 40 organizations that represent thousands of Philadelphia residents. The Coalition is urging swift passage of a bill that would extend the ability to earn sick time to all Philadelphia residents. The Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (Bill No. 080474), sponsored by Council members Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee, would do just that. As amended, the bill would:
- Give all workers in Philadelphia the ability to earn up to nine days of paid sick time per year (five days for small businesses)
- Allow workers to use that time to care for themselves, their children, and their family members
- Prevent public health risks associated with sick workers
- Save employers money due to increased productivity and decreased turnover