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After Yearslong Battle, Victory in Vermont!

Christine Sloane | February 17, 2016

Vermont is poised to become the nation’s fifth state to guarantee paid sick days following today’s approval by the House of Representatives of a proposal that would establish a statewide standard. The victory comes after years of unwavering work by groups like Voices for Vermont’s Children, the Main Street Alliance of Vermont and the Vermont Workers’ Center. The total number of paid sick days laws in the country will now grow to 28.

Vermont’s bill was first introduced last February. By the end of April, it had passed the full House of Representatives but, unfortunately, the legislative session ended before the Senate could take action. Last week, the Senate finally passed it and, today, by a vote of 81 to 64, the House reaffirmed its support and sent the bill to Governor Shumlin, who is expected to sign it into law.

In a statement issued shortly after the vote, the governor said: “This legislation puts an end to an era where some Vermonters were faced with the decision of going to work sick or potentially losing their job. Many Vermont businesses do the right thing by offering paid sick days to their employees. This important right will now be extended to all Vermonters. That's the right thing to do for workers, businesses, and public health. We're proud that Vermont will become the fifth state to guarantee this important protection to its citizens.”

Once the governor approves the measure, it will take effect for businesses with more than five employees on January 1, 2017, and on January 1, 2018, for businesses with fewer than five employees. When the law is fully implemented, most of the 60,000 workers in the state who currently don’t have access to paid sick days will gain the right to earn them. The law will apply to anyone who works at least 18 hours per week, regardless of employer size. And eligible workers will earn one hour of paid sick time for every 52 hours worked.

The bill’s swift progress this year was the result of a near decade-long effort. Over the years, a small group of activists grew into a sophisticated coalition that worked tirelessly with Vermont lawmakers, businesses and the public to educate, hear and address concerns, and gather stories. The campaign brought together a diverse group of children’s, women’s, workers’, civil rights and business organizations that made this victory a reality.

This is a great day for Vermont and an inspiring moment in the national effort to advance paid sick days. Congratulations, Vermont!

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