Chairman McGee, Chairwoman Coakley-Rivera and Members of the Committee:
I would like to offer testimony of my strong support for H. 1815, An Act Establishing Paid Sick Days. I support this bill as the lead sponsor of the Paid Sick Days Act and because, as Franklin Roosevelt said in 1934, “Nothing can be more important to a state, than its public health.” This Act is a powerful demonstration of our commitment to public health, working families, and a healthy and humane economy.
In Massachusetts, 47 percent of all workers lack a single guaranteed paid sick day. That means that nearly half of the hard working people of our state will lose wages and may even risk losing their jobs if they choose to take care of themselves or their family members when they get sick. This dire situation is brought into sharp focus by the expected H1N1 epidemic.
When people go to work sick, we all pay the price. Without paid sick days, many workers are forced to go to work, coughing, sneezing, or worse spreading the H1N1 virus--- instead of staying home or seeking treatment. The same holds true for their children, since the parent could not stay home to tend to a sick child, they are often sent to school spreading viruses which in fact may have caused the closure of many public schools last winter in order to contain the spread of the illness. This reality puts everyone at risk of getting sick and sick workers and students are less productive on the job or in school. Researchers estimate that the Paid Sick Days Act will save $55.5 million in wages annually that would otherwise be paid to workers with lowered work productivity due to illness.
Moreover, we spend hard earned taxpayer dollars each and every year on programs to help MA residents become self-sufficient. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, this number is almost $1 billion for educational programs including adult basic education, drop-out prevention, the GED program, higher education, family and individual counseling, Food Banks, job training and coaching, disability accommodation, homemaker services, affordable housing, Housing Consumer Education Centers, tenancy preservation programs, rental assistance, MassHealth, substance abuse programs, child support enforcement, early education programs, and child care to name a few. Are we prepared to not to get a fair return on this investment by allowing these individuals to slip back into dependency on state programs because their job had no paid sick days and they or their kids got the flu? We have an amazing health care infrastructure in Massachusetts, but we do not have the laws in place to allow working people to access the healthcare they need. What is the point of paying to have health insurance if you cannot ever use it? This issue resonates now more than ever.
The Paid Sick Days Act also enables workers to care for their family members when they become sick or need medical treatment. This is a critically important aspect of the bill, because more and more working people are caring not just for children, but also for elderly relatives. Older residents of Massachusetts depend on working family members for the majority of their non-medical care, and it is in our fiscal as well as moral interest to support workers in providing this care.
No hardworking Massachusetts resident should have to risk their job in order to care for a child who has the flu, or to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment. Workers should never be faced with having to choose between their family or their job. That’s not what the people of my district want; it is unacceptable. That’s not what the state of Massachusetts stands for.
I thank this Committee’s eight members who have co-sponsored the Paid Sick Days Act. We should pass the Paid Sick Days Act because, quite simply, it is the right economic and humane thing to do.
Thank you for your consideration of this important legislation. I urge the Committee to vote favorably for H. 1815 as expeditiously as possible.