The Maryland Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act, expected to be introduced next week in Annapolis, could mean more than 700,000 workers in the state, who currently have no earned paid sick days, may not have to choose between staying home if they or a child is sick, and a paycheck.
A coalition of 108 organizations are working to make earned paid sick leave a reality for Marylanders and plan to support the bill sponsored by State Delegate John Olszewski, D-Baltimore County, and State Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore.
If they are successful Maryland will become the second state in the nation to pass such a law. In 2011, the Connecticut legislature became the first to pass a statewide-paid sick days law.
“Maryland voters need – and want – policies that reflect the reality of today’s working families,” Melissa Broome, senior policy advocate at Job Opportunities Task Force/Working Matters said.
Broome said for workers without paid sick days something as common as a bout of flu can lead to financial disaster.
“It’s time for our legislature to take action so that individuals are no longer forced to make such impossible choices as going to work sick or sending a sick child to school or daycare versus staying home and losing out on precious income,” Broome said.
The same bill was introduced last year and was withdrawn before it came to a vote. The new bill has been amended, giving businesses with up to 10 employees an exemption from the paid portion, but requiring those businesses to offer their employees job protection for unpaid leave.
Delegate Warren Miller, R-Howard County, a member of the House Economic Matters Committee where the bill will first go, said that bills like this harm Maryland businesses and hurt job creation.
“I am opposed to it. We have way too many mandates on Maryland businesses already,” Miller said.
Maryland’s Municipal League, an association of the state’s cities and towns, is also opposed to the bill. A spokesman for the organization said that it would be a “significant burden financially” on cities and towns if the bill became law.
“We opposed the bill last year. It requires businesses, including government entities, to provide paid sick leave to all part-time and temporary employees, and it would be highly unusual for municipalities,” Jim Peck, director of research for the League, said.
The issue of paid sick leave was highlighted on Wednesday evening, when advocates and political leaders, including Maryland’s own Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, were joined by 16,000 Americans in a town hall conference call to discuss the need for greater equality and economic security for women.
“No one should have to choose between their paycheck and taking care of themselves and their family,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D- Conn., one of the call participants. “Cities and states nationwide are passing laws that promote family-friendly policies such as paid sick days and paid family leave.”
In addition to discussing the need for paid sick leave, the panel put a spotlight on the wage gap between men and women, and the need for affordable childcare.
“All women deserve equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and affordable childcare,” Edwards said. “As Democrats, we’re committed to making these proposals a reality, and look forward to joining with women around the country to make that happen.”
The teleconference marked the fifth anniversary of the Fair Pay Act, which advocates say was “a necessary first step toward combatting pay discrimination.” Apart from Edwards and DeLauro, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., actor Cynthia Nixon and the fair pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter all echoed President Barack Obama’s statement from the State of the Union address that “when women succeed, America succeeds.”