Friday, March 18, 2011

Public Comment in Favor of Bill No. 080474

Public Comment in favor of Bill No. 080474
Philadelphia City Council
March 17th, 2011
Kistine A. Carolan
Maternity Care Coalition

I would like to start my statement as an individual. My name is Kistine Carolan and I am a resident of Philadelphia. I left my family and friends and moved here from the Midwest 7 years ago to pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I had every intention to leave upon completion of my degree. However, I fell in love with Philly and so found work in a 6-month internship immediately after graduating. I worked for $12 an hour with no benefits. The only thing I could afford was hope that I wouldn’t get sick.

One morning I woke up with an odd sensation. I brushed it off as sleepiness. Once I got to work though, there was no room for denial. Each co-worker confirmed that, for the first time in my life, I had pink eye. My co-workers and supervisor were eager to get me out of the office, my very pink eyes clearly unsettling them. While I did not formerly have sick time, my organization allowed me the day off to seek treatment. I spent the entire day seeking that treatment. Without health insurance I went to the Health Centers. I am grateful they exist. I spent 6 hours in the waiting room before I had the chance to meet with a doctor for 30 seconds who, not unsurprisingly, took one look and wrote me a prescription.

Most illnesses are not as visible as pink eye but are similarly contagious. The irony is that I would guess that if we became green with the flu and purple with a nasty cold, we wouldn’t be arguing whether to allow sick days. Businesses, especially restaurants, would have some of the most progressive policies on shooing sick workers out the door so they wouldn’t drive away customers. As it is now, however, restaurants do not need to have concern for their customer’s health. The invisibility of sickness is no excuse for allowing ill employees to infect co-workers, vulnerable children and senior citizens they care of, or restaurant go-ers whose food they closely interact with.

As a representative of my employer, Maternity Care Coalition, we would like to stress the positive impact this bill will have on families and, in particular, women. According to national research, working women are the primary caregivers of young children, with four in five mothers indicating that they are responsible for accompanying children to doctor’s appointments. Half of working mothers miss work when their child gets sick. Of these, half do not get paid for that time off. Women continue to receive lower pay than men in equal positions. Moreover, 2/3 of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days and women make up the majority of that workforce. This data makes clear that the lost pay coupled with increased responsibilities for the health of young children is an unfair burden on the women of Philadelphia.

Children in our city would benefit from this law as well. When children become seriously ill, studies show that they recover faster when cared for by their parents. The mere presence of a parent shortens a child’s hospital stay by 31%.

A vote for this bill is a vote for mothers, children, low-wage workers, and the consumers of Philadelphia. I urge you to immediately vote on and pass the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act.

Kistine Carolan is the Community Engagement Coordinator with Maternity Care Coalition,  a member of the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces. If you are interested in commenting on the earned sick time bill please email kscully@pathwayspa.org.

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