Nancy Pelosi Calls For Federal Paid Sick Leave Legislation

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act in Boston yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for federal legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave each year. The FMLA allows workers unpaid leave to care for family members or newborn children, but Pelosi said she wanted legislation that would require workers to earn up to seven paid sick days each year, the Associated Press reports:

Pelosi said federal laws should guarantee that workers can earn paid time off.

“It’s not just about women, it’s about families,” Pelosi said Monday. “Many men take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Three million Americans missed work because of illness in February, and many of them likely did so without leave. 40 percent of private sector workers and 80 percent of low-income workers do not receive paid sick days, increasing the spread of costly illnesses and driving down productivity in a way that hurts both businesses and the overall economy. Nearly 80 percent of America’s food workers receive no paid sick leave.

Massachusetts state lawmakers are pushing a proposal to give workers one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Passing paid sick leave into law would make it just the second state to require paid sick days. Portland joined Seattle, Washington DC, and San Francisco as the fourth American city to require paid sick leave earlier this month. Philadelphia also approved a paid sick leave provision this month, though it is likely to veto it for a second time.

The push for federal paid sick leave legislation began in 2004, and the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn seven sick days a year, has been regularly re-introduced since then. It has not advanced, however, as opponents of paid sick leave continue to use misleading studies to claim that it will hurt American businesses.