Five-year struggle ends with passage of paid sick leave bill

Maybe even sweeter because of the five years it took to get here, progressives celebrated one of the top victories of the 2017 Assembly session -- the passage of paid sick leave for about three quarters of a million Maryland workers and their famillies, many in low-paid jobs and struggling to survive. As noted at the bottom of this blog post from our allies at Working Matters Maryland, Gov. Hogan still needs to be persuaded to accept the inevitable -- passed with veto-proof margins -- and make it law now. This post, first made on April 7, has been updated.

/Cross posted from Working Matters Maryland / We made history [a week ago]! After five long years of fighting for the nearly 750,000 Marylanders without a single earned paid sick day, HB 1 – The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act received its final House vote and is on its way to Governor Hogan’s desk.

The Working Matters Coalition assembled at 9:30 AM for one final rally to welcome legislators and thank Delegates who supported the bill in the 2017 Maryland General Assembly session. Our rallies have become a familiar scene for legislators, as we have tirelessly had a physical presence throughout session on critical votes for earned paid sick days. Reciting chants like, “What do we want? Sick days! When do we want it? Now!” and, “Sick one day, shouldn’t lose pay!,” Working Matters has vocalized our consistent message this legislative session: 2017 is the year. It’s time to protect Marylanders who face impossible choices between their health and their family, all because they aren’t able to earn a single paid sick day.

 After the rally, dozens of coalition members funneled into the House chamber and eagerly waited for HB 1 to come up for its final floor vote. The excitement in the room was palpable.

 HB1 comes to the floor

When HB1 came to the House floor, the Maryland House of Delegates showed that they believe in basic employee protections by voting overwhelming in support of the bill by an 87-53 margin. Delegates began to rise to explain their votes, starting with HB1 sponsor and our paid sick days champion Del. Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City).

As Del. Clippinger recounted the five-year journey it’s taken to pass the Healthy Working Families Act, it became clear that what was happening on the floor was historic. Later on Twitter, Del. Brooke Lierman, who also hails from the 46th district, noted that hearing Del. Clippinger’s speech was the “closest I’ve been to tears on the [House] floor.” Del. Clippinger’s fierce dedication and advocacy for the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders without paid sick days has been nothing short of inspirational.

A number of other delegates rose to explain their vote, including Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (Harford County). In a rousing speech, Del. Lisanti explained that while she initially could not support the bill in 2016, she received over 300 phone calls and 128 personal letters from her constituents urging her to vote yes on HB1. In contrast, Del. Lisanti stated that she had received no such contact in support of Governor Hogan’s alternative bill: “When we had that bill before the House Economic Matters [Committee], not one business in Maryland stepped up and testified for it.” As a result, Del. Lisanti proudly cast her vote for the Healthy Working Families Act!

As Delegates who voted red on the bill rose to explain their opposition to earned paid sick days, Del. Dereck Davis (Prince Georges County), Chairman of the esteemed House Economic Matters Committee, rose from the floor. He quickly pointed out that many legislators voting against the bill had in the past asked him for special considerations when they needed to leave his committee meetings to attend to a sick loved one. Most notably, he stated that legislators “cannot in good conscience take advantage of something that [they are] unwilling to do for [their] fellow citizens.”

 “We call upon the Governor to sign this bill.”

After a lengthy debate on the floor, the Healthy Working Families Act was finally passed by the Maryland General Assembly! Advocates and legislators united on Lawyers Mall to celebrate the historic vote. Our fearless co-sponsors Senator Mac Middleton (Charles County) and Del. Luke Clippinger graciously thanked all the advocates for our tireless efforts to pass HB 1. “The burden of illness should not be compounded by the burden of poverty,” said Del. Clippinger. After years of debate and compromise, said Clippinger, HB1 is “common sense” and “ready to be signed into law. We call upon the Governor to sign this bill.”

Senator Middleton proudly exclaimed, “we’ve come a long way, baby!” and stated that HB 1 is “probably the most important piece of legislation [the legislature has] done this year.”

Today we celebrate, but our work is not done

The Assembly victory would not have been possible without you. Each individual action contributed to the success of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Each call, legislator visit, rally cry, door knock, fact sheet and social media post worked to clearly state that the time for earned paid sick days is now.

In the last three months alone, Working Matters advocates and supporters have:

  • Made over 2000 phone calls to lawmakers
  • Sent over 2400 personal emails and letters to lawmakers
  • Held over a dozen rallies to greet legislators before critical votes
  • Published hundreds of posts on social media supporting HB1

**And that’s only the actions we can track. It doesn’t take into account the incredible grassroots support we’ve been seeing for this bill**

But our work is far from over. In order to make the Healthy Working Families Act the law of the land, Governor Hogan must allow the bill to become law. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to wait until next January for a veto override vote to take place. That’s 10 more months Maryland families will have to wait before they will have the security of earned paid sick days guaranteed by law.

So we need you to ACT! Please contact Governor Hogan today and urge him to sign HB1 when it hits his desk, and tell your friends to do the same! The more people who make their voices heard, the closer we’ll be to ensuring earned paid sick days for Maryland families.

Call Governor Hogan: 410-974-3901

Email the Governor’s office: http://governor.maryland.gov/mail/default.asp

Sign the petition urging Governor Hogan to sign HB1: http://www.earnedsickdaysmd.org/?page_id=1146

And stay tuned for Working Matters updates on actions we’ll need to take to urge Governor Hogan to do the right thing and sign this bill. The fight is not over!

Thank you for all you’ve done. Onward!