Monday, June 8, 2009

Fwd: Opinion: Trying Times Call for Healthy Families Act

> From Women's E-NEWS
> Here's today's update:
> Trying Times Call for Healthy Families Act
> By Linda Meric - WeNews correspondent
> Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed
> are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's
> Enews.
> (WOMENSENEWS)--These are challenging times for America's families.
> One in 4 Americans, or about 23 percent of those surveyed in a
> recent Gallup Poll, report that they are "very worried" about
> keeping up with their monthly bills over the next six months. That's
> up from 19 percent a year ago and 15 percent in March 2007.
> And while many of us are working harder than ever to keep pace under
> the current economic pressure, workplace duties are not the only
> duties we have.
> Family responsibilities await us at home. That is why we must pass
> the Healthy Families Act, introduced in the 111th Congress on May 18
> by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, and Massachusetts
> Sen. Ted Kennedy, also a Democrat.
> Workers still get sick. Children still get fevers and runny noses.
> Mom or Dad still needs to take them to the doctor or just stay by
> their bedside to nurse them back to health. No matter how dedicated
> workers are to hanging on to their jobs at all cost, the need to
> occasionally take time away from work never goes away--not even in a
> tough recession, not even when jobs are this hard to come by.
> Unfortunately, nearly half of private sector workers in the United
> States don't have a single paid sick day to care for themselves.
> Additionally, nearly 100 million Americans get no paid time off to
> care for an ailing child or an aging parent.
> Fewer "Wives" at Home
> While this is an issue for all workers, the reality is that women,
> or "wives," have historically been tasked with the family care-
> giving responsibilities--and most families do not have a "wife" at
> home these days.
> The numbers speak for themselves. According to a 2007 report by the
> Multi-State Working Families Consortium, "Valuing Families: It's
> About Time," less than 6 percent of all women in the U.S. were in
> the work force at the turn of the century. By 1950, that number had
> climbed to 24 percent; by 2000 to 60 percent.
> Meanwhile, the number of single parents--mostly women--has also
> mushroomed and single mothers are working many more hours than they
> have in past years. Why? The Valuing Families report attributes this
> to pent-up demand among women for career opportunity and economic
> independence--and economic necessity. Simply put, over the last 35
> years women's increased work and earnings has been the only avenue
> for many families to attain or maintain economic self-sufficiency.
> Though the flood of women into the work force has been beneficial,
> it has raised an obvious question for families: how to provide all
> the care, support and supervision that children need without
> jeopardizing family economic self-sufficiency. For working women
> without paid sick days, occasionally staying home when a child is
> ill could mean the loss of a day's pay, or worse, the loss of a job.
> It's a terrible choice that strikes fear in the hearts of all
> workers; a fear grounded in workplace reality.
> Consequences of Time Off
> In a 2006 survey, conducted by the Center on Work Life Law at the
> University of California's Hastings College of the Law, 1 in 6
> workers said they or a family member had been fired, suspended,
> punished or threatened by an employer for taking time off to care
> for themselves or a family member when ill.
> This is all highly counterproductive.
> Healthy workers are key to a healthy national economy.
> Paid sick days reduce the business costs of turnover, absenteeism
> and lack of productivity when workers are sick on the job. In fact,
> if workers were provided just seven paid sick days annually,
> according to information released by the National Partnership for
> Women and Families in 2008, our national economy would enjoy an
> annual net savings of more than $8 billion.
> Healthy workers also contribute to a healthy public. As public
> health experts and our own government have repeatedly warned as we
> contend with H1N1 swine flu, sick workers can protect public health
> by staying home. But they shouldn't have to pay the awful price of
> job loss and family financial instability to do so.
> For all these reasons we need to pass the Healthy Families Act.
> It would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to
> recover from their own illness, to care for a sick family member, or
> for diagnostic and preventative care. Equally important, it would
> allow workers time to recover from domestic violence or sexual
> assault. Just as no worker should have to choose between pay and
> health, no worker should have to choose between pay and safety.
> Need for Federal Policy
> In the last three years, paid sick days legislation has passed in
> three cities: San Francisco, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee,
> where implementation is being held up by legal challenges.
> This year, there are 15 active paid sick-days state campaigns. But
> what America needs most in these tough economic times is federal
> policy like the Healthy Families Act.
> A broad coalition of women's, civil rights, health, children's,
> faith-based and labor organizations supports the act. It has more
> than 100 co-sponsors in the U.S. House, strong leadership from Ted
> Kennedy in the Senate and the steadfast support of the White House.
> In accepting his party's nomination last August, President Obama
> said, "We measure the strength of our economy by whether the
> waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick
> kid without losing her job." Later he reiterated, "Now is the time
> to help families with paid sick days, because nobody in America
> should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a
> sick child or an ailing parent."
> Congress must pass the Healthy Families Act. The President must sign
> it.
> We must ensure that all families have the tools to be as healthy and
> as economically self-sufficient as possible as we move toward
> recovery in the days ahead.
> Linda Meric, a nationally-known speaker on family-friendly workplace
> policy, is executive director of 9to5, National Association of
> Working Women. A diverse, grassroots, membership-based nonprofit
> that helps strengthen women's ability to win economic justice, 9to5
> has staffed offices in Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles and
> San Jose.
> Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at
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