By Ramona du Houx
Maine currently does not require employers to provide paid sick leave, which means nearly 200,000 Maine workers in the private sector have no way to earn paid sick time. This means Mainers every day making the choice between their health and their paycheck.
A bill by Sen. Anne Haskell, a Portland Democrat, would ensure that workers at companies with 11 or more employees have the ability to earn up to seven days of paid sick time per year. However, Republicans on the Legislative Council voted in October to block the bill from a fair hearing in the House and Senate. Sen. Haskell has announced she will appeal the Council’s decision at its November meeting.
“The impact on a family when a breadwinner must take unpaid leave from work is devastating,” said Sen. Haskell. “Not only does that mean lost pay, but workers could actually face disciplinary action or even lose their jobs for doing the responsible thing and staying home when sick.”
When workers cannot earn paid sick time, public health suffers. Just 40 percent of private service-sector employees are eligible for paid sick time. These workers, including restaurant, hotel and retail employees, interact with the public for a living, and many are likely to come to work sick, increasing the likelihood of passing an illness on to coworkers or customers.
Paid sick leave laws are picking up steam around the country, with cities and states nationwide guaranteeing this basic worker right.
On Labor day of 2015, President Obama issued an executive order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to allow all employees on federal contracts to accrue up to seven days of paid sick time each year.
“It is time Maine stepped up to the plate and showed workers how valuable they are to our economy,” said San. Haskell. “I urge my Republican colleagues to reconsider their votes against this bill.”
Bills for the second session must be allowed in by the Council, a body comprised of the top five Democrats and top five Republicans in the Legislature. Given the split makeup of the Council, bipartisan support is needed for any bill to advance to the Legislature.
The Legislative Council will meet to consider appeals on November 19.