Women workers, leaders of organizations representing Maine women and several female Democratic senators spoke at a press conference today on the importance to Maine women of passing LD 369, legislation guaranteeing workers the ability to earn paid sick days.“There’s nothing more heart-breaking than staying home from work at the doctor’s orders, only to return to work to find that I didn’t have a job anymore,” said Lynnea Hawkins, a single mother from Lewiston, who lost her job at a call center two years ago after falling ill. “We all get sick and we all need to be able to earn paid sick days. It's that simple.”Currently, almost 200,000 Maine workers aren’t able to earn even a single paid sick day to care for themselves or a loved one. Women make up a majority of the workers in low-paid jobs that are least likely to allow workers to earn paid time off, even as they also shoulder a disproportionate share of family caregiving responsibilities."The ability to earn paid sick time and to apply that time in instances of illness, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, is an issue of the highest priority,” said Whitney Parrish, Director of Policy and Program at the Maine Women's Lobby. “The low wage occupations where workers are least likely to be able to take time off with pay when they or a loved one are ill are those most commonly held by women and people of color, and we need to make sure that workplace policies support these individuals and reflect our values."LD 369 ensures that all workers employed by businesses with more than five employees will have the right to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours a year.“Guaranteeing earned paid sick days means that no mother is penalized for choosing to stay home to care for their sick child, that no child is punished for taking the time necessary to care for a sick parent,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, the bill’s sponsor. “As Mainers, looking out for each other is a fundamental part of who we are. The lack of earned paid sick time in this state goes against everything we stand for.”11 other states, including most New England states, already have similar legislation guaranteeing paid sick days."As a health care provider, we do our best to make it as easy as possible to get care because no woman should have to choose between taking care of her health and the well-being of her family and keeping her job,” said Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Not having paid sick days remains a significant barrier to health care access, and we believe that policies like LD 369 are key to supporting women, families and community health."LD 369 would also guarantee earned time off for survivors of domestic violence, a vital protection according to advocates for women."Paid sick days can let a survivor pursue healthcare and counseling, attend court hearings, be home to have the locks changed on their doors, meet with teachers about how best to support scared and struggling children - without impacting the household budget and better enabling them to remain in the workforce,” said Francine Garland Stark, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “Accommodating the short- term needs of survivors in this way is to the benefit the State's economy while mitigating the impact of domestic abuse and violence on some of its most vulnerable residents."