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The tireless efforts of advocates in Arizona and Washington paid off on Election Day this year, when nearly six in 10 voters in both states approved ballot measures that will guarantee paid sick and safe time for nearly two million workers and raise the statewide minimum wage rates. These election victories were sweet amidst disappointment on other fronts, and they will make a real difference for many people and their families.
The new laws are also capstones to a historic year in the nationwide effort to secure paid sick days for all. Once they take effect, 39 jurisdictions – including seven states – will ensure people can earn the time they need to recover from illnesses or seek preventive care without risking a paycheck or job. Since January alone, a total of 17 paid sick days laws have been enacted or taken effect across the country – many more than in previous years.
At the federal level, in September, the U.S. Department of Labor finalized a rule implementing President Obama’s executive order to ensure that 1.15 million people who work on federal contracts will be able to earn paid sick time, including nearly 600,000 workers who could not previously earn a single day. This is unprecedented progress, led by an administration committed to advancing fair and family friendly workplaces.
But election outcomes in other states and federally mean we cannot rest on the promise of this year’s progress and, instead, must be vigilant. As advocates continue to win laws at the state and local levels – and we will – we must also fight against likely efforts to thwart progress through state laws that prohibit localities from enacting supportive workplace policies like paid sick days, as well as efforts to rollback executive actions at the federal level.
This new landscape means that the resolve of broad and diverse coalitions like Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families and Raise Up Washington, which led the efforts to secure the wins in Arizona and Washington, are even more critical. Together with workers, other advocates, business leaders and lawmakers, we will lift up the growing body of evidence that shows paid sick days laws are good for workers, families, businesses and the public’s health.
We will also make it known to our elected officials that, despite corporate lobbyists’ arguments to the contrary, businesses support paid sick days. We will continue the drumbeat for this common sense policy, protect hard-fought victories, and call on members of Congress to advance the Healthy Families Act. Our work and progress thus far mean we’re well-prepared for the years ahead, and we know it’s worth it.
Capping off an already historic year of progress for paid sick days, voters in Arizona and Washington approved ballot measures last week that will mean the nation will soon have seven statewide paid sick days laws. Thirty-nine jurisdictions now do – or will soon – guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick time, and efforts to protect and build upon these victories has become even more important.