Economy

Last Night, One Million Workers Were Guaranteed The Right To Take Time Off When They’re Sick

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Last night, four places in the United States voted over whether or not employers should be required to give paid sick leave to employees. All four approved the idea.

Massachusetts was the biggest win for paid sick leave advocates — the state is just the third in the nation to require employers grant people such paid time off, following California and Connecticut. The state was joined by three major municipalities: Trenton, NJ; Montclair, NJ; and Oakland, CA (though the state has a paid sick leave law, Oakland’s will expand on it). All told, the laws will impact more than one million workers.

These latest votes follow a recent uptick in guaranteed paid time off for the sick, which has found its way into law by any number of means, including ballot initiative, city ordinance, or legislation. At the end of last year, only one state and 6 cities had required paid sick leave. Now, the total is three states and 16 cities:

New Jersey in particular has been a beacon for paid sick leave initiatives, thanks to an organized campaign on the ground there. Organizers say they learned from New York City’s movement for paid sick leave, and have had success targeting not the state as a whole but rather progressive communities within it. “We agreed that it was going to be very difficult to get the governor to sign a statewide bill,” Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, the executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, recounted to ThinkProgress’s Bryce Covert earlier this year. But “we had two quite progressive mayors in Jersey City and in Newark… We knew that they could institute it as an ordinance in their cities, as opposed to having to wait for a state bill.”

But the pro-business motivation that drives opposition to paid sick leave may be misguided. Evidence from the early pioneers on paid sick leave indicate that there are very few costs, if any, to employers in providing paid sick leave. And indeed there may be benefits; when San Francisco approved paid sick leave, for example, the city saw business growth. Similarly, in Seattle, job growth has been better since the city’s law took effect.