Paid sick leave must become law without Hogan's signature

Larry Hogan has signaled he won't sign HB1, the Healthy Working Families Act, in his last batch of signings this week. His choice is a veto he already knows will be overridden next January, or letting paid sick leave become law without a signature now. He should do the latter; let him know that. Call 410-974-3901.

May 25 – Liz Richards of Working Matters reports this morning -- as do several media outlets -- that Gov. Hogan has not included HB1, the Healthy Working Families Act, in the 200-odd bills he will sign this week in his last round of bill-signing theater. His choices, Josh Kurtz surmises in the Maryland Matters blog, are bleak-ish: “veto a bill that polls well with the electorate, handing Democrats an issue they are sure to exploit; or let the legislation become law without his signature, disappointing business groups and many of his fellow Republicans.” Richards urges progressive backers of the bill – Progressive Maryland has been part of the years-long battle -- to tell Hogan unequivocally “let it become law.” In Working Matters’ “Hogan Watch” series leading up to the deadline, this installment outlines the disproportionate racial impact of lack of paid sick leave for poor and working families.


/From Working Matters/ Everyone gets sick, but in State of Maryland, not everyone has the time to get better. The Healthy Working Families Act (HB1) would allow over 700,000 Marylanders without any earned sick leave the ability to take time off work to care for their families when illness strikes. The result of five years of compromise and careful deliberation with stakeholders at all levels, HB1 would allow 488,000 Marylanders working at businesses with 15 employees or more to earn paid sick days, and allow another 216,000 working at businesses with less than 15 employees to earn unpaid sick time with job protection.

In two days, Governor Hogan must make a decision on the Healthy Working Families Act, which would allow hundreds of thousands of Marylanders to earn sick leave for the first time. But while the wide-spanning benefits of earned paid sick days are clear, the measure would have a particular impact for people of color, who disproportionately lack earned paid sick days.

“An estimated 39% of African-American Marylanders are unable to earn paid sick days, and that number jumps to a staggering 58% for Latino Marylanders,” said Liz Richards, Director of the Working Matters Coalition. “This status quo is unacceptable. Everyone gets sick, and everyone needs time to recover and care for their families.”

 The Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that 37% of white Marylanders are unable to earn a single paid sick day; that rate rises to 39% for African-American Marylanders and 58% for Latino Marylanders. But the disparity in impact is not limited to access rates. For people of color, the burden of lacking earned paid sick days is exacerbated by other factors.

For many Marylanders, the risk of job insecurity can influence the decision to take off time from work to care for themselves or a sick loved one. But for African-American Marylanders, who face an unemployment rate twice as high as the state average, the risk is even greater. That was the case for Adrian Jefferson of Baltimore, MD, who testified in favor of HB1, explaining his struggle to regain job stability after he was fired for taking time off work to recover from illness. “They wanted me to come back to work while I was still vomiting and throwing up,” wrote Jefferson. “Since I was fired for being sick I’ve been looking for work…I suffer from it to this day. If I hadn’t gotten sick on the job, I might have steady work.” The Healthy Working Families Act seeks to prevent situations like the one Adrian faced, allowing Marylanders to get healthy faster so they can maintain their job security and stay employed. In fact, states that adopted earned paid sick days standards similar to the HB1 saw unemployment decrease in the year after implementation.

Preventive healthcare access is also critical for Marylanders of color. Nationally, chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease account for 75% of health care costs and 70% of deaths.  Alarmingly, African-Americans are 60 percent more likely to have diabetes than white Americans and have significantly higher mortality rates from stroke, heart disease and breast cancer. Yet workers without earned paid sick days are less likely to be able to access the kinds of preventive services that could detect and treat early symptoms of disease. Latino Marylanders face a similar dilemma. Disproportionately concentrated in jobs that do not have sick leave, Latinos are also less likely to seek preventative services. For these Marylanders, the Healthy Working Families Act isn’t just about flexibility – it can be an urgent health matter.

Furthermore, earned paid sick leave makes it easier Marylanders caring for an ageing parent or loved one to accompany them to doctor’s appointments or help tend to medical emergencies. The National Partnership for Women and families reports this is especially true for Latino families. National studies show that more than 20 percent of Latinos serve as caregivers to an adult family member or someone close to them, and Latino caregivers spend about 40 percent more time providing care than white caregivers. The Healthy Working Families Act makes it easier for Marylanders to age in place, allowing them to stay with their families and get the care they need.

In addition, access to earned paid safe days are critical for victims of domestic violence, who are disproportionately women of color. Roughly 33 percent of Latina women experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and African American women are 35 percent more likely than white women to suffer from physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner. Paid safe days in the Healthy Working Families Act protect the paychecks and jobs of victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault when they need time off to seek services and get their families to safety.

The Healthy Working Families Act would make a meaningful impact for people of color in Maryland. It’s time for Governor Hogan to do the right thing and [sign this bill] let the bill become law. Call 410-974-3901.