When we asked Portlanders what they think about paid sick days, here’s what they had to say:
“As an employee at a grocery store, I know that many of my colleagues come to work sick because they can’t afford to lose pay. When I handle food and interact with customers on the job, I should be healthy, not contagious. It’s just not that complicated.
The simple fact is that every one of us gets sick once in a while when we’re scheduled to work, and when we do, we all need a way to recover without having to lose pay that many can’t afford to go without. Some employers in Portland provide workers the ability to earn paid sick leave while they work, but a lot don’t.
A shocking 80 percent of low-wage workers — those who can least afford to miss the pay — and 40 percent of all private-sector workers in our country don’t earn even one day of paid sick leave. We would all be better off — especially our customers — if we had such a policy citywide. I think it’s time to fix that, and Portland is the kind of city to understand that — and solve it.” Susan L, SE Portland
“I hope the Portland City Council passes a paid sick days policy soon. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already announced an early and strong 2012-13 flu season (as many of us know personally!), and in my children’s SE Portland elementary school last week, we experienced a scarily rapid spread of a stomach flu (likely norovirus). It was so contagious kids came home with their clothes wrapped in plastic bags because peers had thrown up on them — in class! Kids were throwing up into garbage cans in the front office. The school secretary was wearing a mask to protect herself.
For parents who can’t afford to take time off unpaid (or who might get fired for doing so), this is a real community conundrum that very clearly affects our entire community, especially our kids. Public health events like this happen because contagious people who should be home, away from others, aren’t. And often that’s because they can’t afford not to work. My message to my elected commissioners is this: take responsible action here, now, for our kids and for community health. Help can’t help soon enough.” Kelly B, SE Portland
“Where I work, I only get paid sick leave after I’ve already been out sick for three days. As a result, if I get sick, I take medications to mask the symptoms — and I go to work sick. It’s hard to get better this way, but I can’t afford to lose a day’s wages. And where I work, lots of people come to work sick because they can’t afford to stay home. There are single parents and families who can’t afford food if they miss a day’s wages. This isn’t right. Everyone needs to be able to take paid sick leave when they’re sick — on the first day they’re sick.” Avery Leinova, SE Portland
“I work as a teacher and often older siblings have to miss school when their parents can’t stay home with their sick children.” Lisa, North Portland, Working America member
“I am a single mother and would love to not have to worry about loss of wages when my son is sick.” Nora Ellen, North Portland, Working America member
“I see patients even sicker in the ER when they can’t take time off to heal.” Brigid, North Portland, Working America member
“My husband and I have three children between the ages of 4 and 9 and we both work outside the house. If we didn’t earn sick time from our jobs to take care of our kids when they’re sick, I honestly don’t know what we’d do with them! Each child is sick at least once a year for a few days, and sending them to school sick is not only discouraged (for good reason), it’s clearly better for my children to recover at home with a parent nearby to help. How parents manage without paid sick time from work I can’t imagine.” Andrea M, SE Portland
“For 5 years, my husband didn’t have any paid sick time at his job. Whenever our 2 young kids were sick or needed to go to the doctor, I had to stay home from work to take care of them. Luckily my employer is very flexible, but it meant having to miss important meetings and deadlines. I often found myself wrestling with whether to send my kids to daycare if their temperature was “just” 100. I always felt like I was letting someone down- either my coworkers or my kids. My husband finally got a job that has paid sick leave, and last week when the kids were sick, he was able to stay home with them for the first time. I was able to take care of my responsibilities at work and know my kids were being well cared for.” Annie, NE Portland
“I’m a union grocery worker with paid sick leave and it sure came in handy when I had shoulder surgery a few years ago. But we have one problem: unless we are hospitalized, we do not start getting paid sick leave until the third scheduled day we are off sick or injured. Many of us come to work sick because we can’t afford to lose 1 or 2 days pay. I hope earned sick days legislation will solve this problem because everybody needs access to paid sick time that they can actually use.” Stuart F, West Portland
“My neighbor is afraid of getting sick because she has no paid time off. That doesn’t make sense. She takes care of people’s teeth.ʺ Sara, North Portland, Working America member
ʺI was sick and had to quit because of kidney problems. I was not allowed sick days.ʺ Kathlena, SE Portland, Working America member
ʺI work with seniors and I don’t get sick days.ʺ Jessica, North Portland, Working America member