FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Novel Plan for Paid Sick Leave

by

Getting time off when you’re sick, or need to care for a new child or ailing parent, shouldn’t be a luxury enjoyed only by those who are financially well off. Yet low-wage workers in the United States — the workers who need paid leave the most — typically have this key benefit denied them.

But not anymore in Washington, D.C.

Activists in the city recently overcame stiff opposition from corporate lobbyists to win one of the country’s most generous paid-leave policies. The new law guarantees eight weeks of paid time off for new parents, six weeks for those caring for sick family members, and two weeks of personal sick time.

One key to this victory: outspoken support from small business leaders like Ethel Taylor, owner of a local pet-grooming parlor called the Doggie Washerette.

Taylor first became involved in the paid-leave struggle when she met an activist with the Main Street Alliance, who was going door-to-door down D.C.’s Georgia Avenue talking to business leaders about the paid-leave plan the group was backing.

The plan’s novel mechanism for funding paid-leave benefits particularly impressed Taylor. The D.C. law will use a “social insurance model” funded through a 0.62 percent payroll tax on all private-sector employers, so none of them will have to pay the full cost of employees’ sick time.

“I would’ve been gone tomorrow if I’d had to pay out of pocket for the cost of an employee’s leave time,” Taylor told me.

The compensation employees will receive under the new D.C. law significantly improves upon leave policies in other jurisdictions. The District government will reimburse employees for 90 percent of their first $900 in weekly pay and 50 percent of their remaining weekly pay, with a limit of $1,000 per week.

By comparison, private sector employees in California can receive only up to 55 percent of their wages.

Taylor has in the past taken her beautifully groomed standard poodle Joy to campaign events for candidates she supported. But the D.C. paid-leave drive has otherwise been her first encounter with political activism.

She had some special motivation. Taylor personally had to take a lot of unpaid time off after her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Under the D.C. law, business owners like Taylor can also tap into the paid-leave fund.

But Taylor’s commitment went beyond her own personal situation. “I’d always been active in my neighborhood of Shepherd Park. But when I opened the Doggie Washerette there five years ago, I felt a whole other level of responsibility to serve the public.”

Working with the Main Street Alliance, Taylor attended public meetings, penned a commentary in support of the paid leave law, and did other media interviews. The new legislation, adopted on December 20, will cover everyone working in the District for a private sector employer, including the self-employed.

At the federal level, we can’t expect much action on family-friendly work policies in the near future. The man nominated to be the next Secretary of Labor, fast food CEO Andrew Puzder, is strongly opposed to paid leave policies.

But as Washington residents themselves proved, cities and states don’t need to wait for leaders in Washington to act. D.C.’s successful campaign for comprehensive paid leave offers important lessons for other communities — not least that small businesses and employees can be on the same side.

This column is distributed by OtherWords.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail