COMMENTARY

President Obama Fights To Give Families Access To Paid Sick Leave

President Obama in his weekly address said, “Eight years after the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, our economy has created jobs for 71 straight months.  That’s a new record.  Unemployment has fallen below five

Photo Credit: Whitehouse - President Barack Obama.
Photo Credit: Whitehouse – President Barack Obama.

percent.  Last year, the typical household saw its income grow by about twenty-eight hundred dollars – the biggest one-year increase ever.  And the uninsured rate is at an all-time low.”

He noted, however, that most of the wealth rest with few people at the top and the majority middle class were “still working paycheck to paycheck, without a lot of breathing room.”

He said there were two things that one can do. One, prey on people’s worries for political gain and two, do something to help working families feel more secure in today’s economy.

The President noted that he belongs to the latter group and was prepared to do the one thing that will help right away and that’s ensuring more families have access to paid leave.

“Today, having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families.  But right now, millions of Americans don’t have access to even a single day of paid sick leave.  So, if you get sick, that sticks you with a lousy choice.  Do you go to work and get everyone else sick, too?  Or do you take care of yourself at the risk of a paycheck?  If your kid gets sick, do you send her to school anyway?  Or do you stay home to take care of her, lose a day’s pay, and maybe even put your own job at risk?”

He said people should not have to make those choices and although he has repeatedly called on the Republican Congress to pass a law guaranteeing most workers in America the chance to earn seven days of paid sick leave each year, they have failed to act.

“But we’ve also worked with states, cities, and businesses to get the job done – and many have, pointing to research showing that paid leave actually helps their bottom line.  In fact, since I took office, another ten million private sector workers have gained paid sick leave – making up a record share of our workforce,” he declared.

The President said that there are still about 40 million private sector workers without a single sick day off and he has been forced to act on his own to correct this malady within the workforce.

“Effective on January 1st, federal contractors will be required to give their employees working on new federal contracts up to seven paid sick days each year.  That’s happening.  It will help about one million workers when they or a loved one gets sick.  It will cover time you need for preventive care.  It will cover absences resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault.  And it means everyone else is less likely to catch what someone else has got – whether it’s a coworker or the person preparing or serving your food,” said the President.

He added, “Paid sick leave isn’t a side issue, or a women’s issue, or something that’s just nice to have.  It’s a must-have.”

Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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