A bill to provide paid sick days for employees in Albany County is scheduled to be introduced at tonight’s County Legislature meeting.
Across upstate New York, a majority of private sector workers receive paid sick days from their employers. Federal law does not require employers to provide sick days, but the Family Medical Leave Act, signed 25 years ago by President Clinton, does allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for family members.
With the advance of so-called "service economy" jobs, several municipalities have passed legislation requiring sick time.
Paid sick leave is embraced by Citizen Action New York. Blue Carreker is campaign manager with the group as well as a member of the Albany Paid Sick Day Coalition. She notes that a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds that an estimated 40 percent of workers living in Albany County lack even a single paid sick day. "Lots of different arrangements produce that and they say 'you can't get them 'til you're here for a year,' it may say that you have to be sick for a couple of days and then you can start earning them, or it may be that you don't have any at all. And it particularly applies to retail workers, restaurant workers, transport workers, part-time workers."
In his January "State of the County" address, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy mentioned the draft legislation he's submitted to ensure that all workers in Albany County have the right to earn paid sick leave. "This lack of access is even higher among low-income and part-time workers. Studies show that access to paid sick days promote safer and healthier work environments by reducing the spread if illness and workplace injuries and it reduces health care costs and supports children and families by helping the parents fulfill their care-giving responsibilities."
The Democrat will join officials, activists and local workers at a rally in support of paid sick day legislation prior to the measure's introduction. "This legislation will result in a healthier workplace, improve child and family wellbeing and reduce health care costs. It will also result in more productive work and will benefit employees by increasing their bottom line," said McCoy.
Carreker urges anyone supporting paid sick day legislation to attend the rally. "It's 5 o'clock, it's in the county courthouse. There will be people down there kind of directing you inside. We're going to hear from workers who have directly felt the impact of not having paid sick days and from people in health and education talking about what happens when people don't get sick days, that is, people come to work sick and infect other people. Things like the flu are spread much more rapidly. Kids come to school sick because the parents can't stay home with them. And of course that has impact on both the child and on the school. So it's a public health issue as well and we'll have quite a few people from the community talking about that."
Five states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws. In his State of the Union, President Donald Trump urged Congress to support paid family leave.