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Poor Nations Offer Paid Sick Leave; Why Can’t U.S. Workers Receive It?

by Harry Kelber (repost) Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 at 8:04 PM

This great essay by Kelber says that almost every single country out there supports new mothers and sick workers, except the United States of America. Poor countries are doing better by their workers than our country is. This is PATHETIC.

At least 145 countries provide paid sick days for short- and long-term illnesses, with 136 offering a week or more annually. In more than 61 countries, workers receive sickness benefits for 26 weeks until recovery.

This is the first systematic global study to measure policies for working families in 177 countries. The study used extensive data from independent research institutions, as well as from United Nations, the World Bank and the ILO.

In contrast, the United States provides only unpaid leave for serious illnesses through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which does not cover all workers. The U.S. does not guarantee mothers in any segment of the work force. Of the 177 countries, there are only three other countries, besides the U.S., that do not provide paid sick leave: Liberia, Papua and Switzerland

The study found that 169 countries of the 173 studied offered guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave.

Unlike 66 countries where fathers receive paid paternity leave or have the right to paid parental leave, U.S. employers extend no such benefits to fathers, who risk their jobs if they take even an unpaid day of unauthorized sick leave.

The Democrats have introduced a bill in Congress, the Health Family Act, that requires employers with 15 workers or more to provide paid sick leave, under a complicated formula that gives workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked “up to 7 days.” (Why didn’t the bill simply say “seven paid days? You can guess why.)

Let’s Place Paid Sick Leave High on Labor’s Agenda

With swine flu still a problem, paid sick leave would be especially helpful to poor and middle-class working families. But the Democrats have already made a concession: the bill won’t be considered until 2010, at the earliest, and who knows what will happen to it?

American workers, who spend some of the best years of their lives to make their employers profitable and wealthy, sometimes get sick while doing so. Or maybe there’s a sick member of the family who needs their attention at home. Don’t they deserve to have that extra feature of good health care—paid sick leave?

The AFL-CIO should demand that Congress enact legislation that requires employers to offer their workers seven days of sick leave, without entangling formulas. It should also urge unions to include paid sick leave in their collective bargaining demands. It is shameful that we are virtually the only country that denies workers this essential benefit.



LaborTalk (13) will be posted on Thursday, November 12, 2009.

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