Paid sick leave now up to the Senate after House approval

The full House of Delegates passed a paid sick leave bill Tuesday after four years of death by committee. The Senate needs to follow suit, moving it from the Finance Committee to the floor and clearing the way for 700,000 uncovered Marylanders to have a chance at a better life.

[The following account was released yesterday by Working Matters, the coalition of Maryland organizations that has fought for four years to pass a statewide paid sick leave law. Progressive Maryland is an active member of the coalition and has advocated vigorously for the bill.]

Annapolis – The Maryland House of Delegates voted 84-54 Tuesday to approve legislation that would allow Maryland workers to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

The successful House vote marks the furthest the bill has ever advanced within the Maryland General Assembly. The Healthy Working Families Act (HB 580/SB472) now awaits action in the Senate, where it currently remains in the Senate Finance Committee.

“Today, the House of Delegates underscored that Maryland families can’t wait any longer for earned sick leave,” said lead House sponsor Delegate Luke Clippinger. “With this vote, we are one giant step closer to ensuring that hundreds of thousands of working Marylanders no longer have to make the impossible choice between their health and their job, between the well-being of their families and their economic security.”

Also today, in a letter delivered to Senate President Miller and every member of the Senate, nearly 100 religious leaders from denominations and congregations across the State called upon the Maryland State Senate to act swiftly in passing a strong earned sick days bill. “When the health of workers is compromised by illness, they need time away from work to heal without fear of losing their jobs,” the faith leaders wrote. “People should not need to choose between earning an income to support themselves and their families or taking the time to restore their health or that of their family members.”

[The Senate Finance Committee needs to send the Senate bill, SB472, to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation for a floor vote. Progressive Maryland urges its members and allies to contact their senators about this crucial moment.]

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that more than 700,000 Marylanders — nearly 40 percent of the state’s workforce — are unable to earn paid sick days to use when they or a family member are ill.

An October 2015 poll conducted by the University of Maryland/Washington Post found that 83 percent of voters support allowing workers to earn a limited number of annual paid sick days. This support was broad across key voting blocs, including 91 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans.

Specifically, the Healthy Working Families Act will:

  • Allow Maryland workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to seven full days (56 hours) of paid sick days per year.
  • Allow part-time workers to accrue fewer days per year, depending on the number of hours worked.
  • Permit employers with existing paid leave standards to maintain those policies as long as they comply with the minimum requirements of the Act.

With just over a week remaining in this year’s state legislative session, supporters of earned sick days – including faith leaders, community advocates, public health officials, nonprofit executives, parents with their children, and Maryland workers unable to earn paid sick days – will continue to rally in front of the State House each morning to greet senators as they head into floor sessions, and to urge passage of the Healthy Working Families Act.

To date, five states and 24 cities or counties – including Montgomery County, MD – have enacted earned sick days measures, either through legislation or voter-driven ballot initiatives, and more wins are on the horizon.

Working Matters is a coalition of more than 150 organizations [including Progressive Maryland] committed to advancing the Maryland Campaign for Paid Sick Days. Members include business owners, faith communities, labor unions, as well as advocates for women, minorities, children, seniors, and low-wage workers.