Forced to Work Sick? That’s Fine With Disney, Red Lobster, and Their Friends at ALEC

From Mother Jones:

The United States is one of the only industrialized nations that doesn’t mandate paid sick leave. These guys want to keep it that way.

Thu Jun. 27, 2013

Before jetting off last week for a trade mission at the Paris Air Show, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott took a moment to sign into law a bill that banned local governments from requiring employers to offer paid sick leave. The restaurant industry and Florida’s big theme parks lobbied hard for the passage of the legislation, which blocked local efforts to give low-wage workers a basic benefit that’s standard in virtually every industrialized country in the world except the United States.

The Florida law is the most recent in a series of victories by low-wage industries that, with the aid of Republican-led state legislatures, have succeeded in derailing or overriding measures providing this benefit to workers. Working behind the scenes in this campaign is a familiar foe of employee rights, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose membership includes a range of major corporations and industry groups. The corporate-funded organization’s model “preemption” legislation—disallowing municipalities from enacting their own paid leave laws—have been introduced by state legislators around the country.

The paid sick leave push is the long-awaited sequel to the federal effort for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act in the early 1990s. The law allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child or to care for a sick family member without worrying about getting fired. At the forefront of the paid sick leave campaign are a host of local and national women’s groups that, with labor unions, were also at the vanguard of the FMLA fight.

Paid sick leave is a key women’s issue, since women are increasingly the primary breadwinners for many families, and still the primary caregivers for children. They “are overwhelmingly responsible for taking a kid to the doctor,” points out Vicki Shabo, the director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women and Families, so the inability to take paid sick leave affects them disproportionately.

The numbers are sobering: 43 percent of women employed in the private sector don’t have a single paid sick day, and more than half of all working mothers don’t have paid leave they can use to care for sick kids. The figures are even worse for women in low-wage jobs. More than 80 percent of people making less than $8.25 an hour have no sick leave, and women are overrepresented in this category.

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