This morning nearly a million of our fellow citizens woke up and went to work without a single hour of earned sick time.
People with the flu go to work sick because they worry about being fired. Parents send their children to school sick because they worry about losing their jobs. Others, too afraid to ask for time off from work, watch their aging parents suffer, unable to shuttle them between doctors’ appointments.
This is morally wrong and economically unwise. It’s wrong when we force our citizens to choose between economic security and physical or emotional well-being. We may never create equal outcomes, but together we must do all we can to provide equal opportunity.
That’s why I testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development this month in support of a bill providing earned sick time to workers across this Commonwealth, a common-sense policy I first testified in support of seven years ago.
The proposal before the legislature is carefully crafted, providing employees with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, with a maximum of 56 hours for companies with 10 or more workers. To protect small businesses, companies with 6-10 workers could limit the annual leave to 40 hours, and companies with fewer than six employees could offer unpaid leave instead.
The pending legislation covers treatment for illness along with routine medical visits. It applies to workers, their spouses, their children and their parents. And it also covers the legal, medical, or psychological consequences of domestic violence.
At Grossman Marketing Group, we took care of our workers and provided generous paid leave. Why? Because the most important asset we had were the women and men who came to work everyday. Treating workers with the dignity and respect they deserve produces great companies.
When doctors diagnosed my colleague Jimmy Lynch, one of our top pressmen, with throat cancer in 2005, we told Jimmy to focus on getting better and not to worry about anything else. He stayed on at full pay for more than six months while he recovered. Jimmy came back and still works at the company today. And our company continues to thrive each day because of loyal workers like Jimmy.
My grandfather built our company on a foundation of quality, value, service, and professionalism. For more than a century, through four generations of family ownership, our success depended on retaining an experienced and talented workforce. We need our colleagues to contribute their expertise each day on the job.
I urge the legislature to pass this bill. But if it does not, and I’m privileged to be elected your next governor, earned sick time will be the first bill I file in 2015.
Many of those opposed to this legislation who helped stall it for seven years ask how businesses can afford to pay their employees for a modest amount of sick time. But having run a successful business for 36 years, I ask the critics, including my friends in the business community, how can we afford not to?
As Governor Patrick likes to say, too often we accumulate political capital and then fail to spend it.
I can’t think of a more urgent issue facing our Commonwealth today than a proposal to treat our fellow citizens with dignity and respect.
And I will gladly spend the political capital I’ve built up during decades in business and politics to help it pass.