WASHINGTON, May 17 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), along with 42 of their colleagues in the Senate and 80 in the House of Representatives, today introduced legislation that would ensure the United States finally joins virtually every other major country on Earth in guaranteeing paid sick leave to its workers.
Ahead of the introduction of the Healthy Families Act of 2023 (HFA) on Wednesday, Sanders and DeLauro also rallied with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), rail workers, mothers, union leaders, advocates, and colleagues to call on Congress to pass the HFA and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act into law, that would guarantee twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave.
Sanders and DeLauro were joined on the legislation in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Brian Schatz (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“It is time to end this absurdity,” said Sanders. “It is time for the United States to join nearly every other major country in the world and finally guarantee paid sick leave. In the richest country in the history of the world, it is a total disgrace that millions of workers are having to choose between their job and caring for their family, their newborn child, or themselves when they are sick and in need of care. It is time Congress passed this legislation to ensure workers receive the basic dignity and benefits that they deserve.”
“Right now, the United States does not guarantee workers a single paid sick day, and many are not even entitled – under law – to unpaid time,” said DeLauro. “Not even one day. That is shameful. I am proud to be joined by my colleague Senator Bernie Sanders in reintroducing the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would provide paid sick days to working Americans. It is beyond time for the United States to guarantee paid sick days for its workforce.”
Today, the U.S. remains one of the only two major countries in the world that does not provide paid time off for short-term illnesses nor paid leave for family and medical needs and emergencies. Currently, 34 million workers lack any paid sick time at all – including 25 percent of the private sector workforce and 9 percent of the public sector workforce. Things are worse for low-income workers and households, reaching a breaking point for millions of Americans during the pandemic. In addition, nearly one in four employed mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth and one in five retirees have left the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill family member. It is estimated that more than 2 million women left the U.S. workforce since the start of the pandemic, many forced to leave to care for their family.
Workers without paid sick leave are three times more likely to delay or forgo necessary health care for themselves and nearly twice as likely to forgo medical care for their families compared to working adults with paid sick days. However, workers with access to paid sick leave are 28 percent less likely to suffer nonfatal occupational injuries and employers who provide paid sick leave see 25 percent less turnover in their workforce. According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a universal paid sick days policy would reduce preventable visits to the emergency room and result in cost savings of $1.1 billion per year, including $500 million in savings for public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The Healthy Families Act of 2023 would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to be used to recover from their own illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability. The legislation would also:
- Allow workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees would earn up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days each year to be used for the same reasons – unless their employers choose to offer paid sick days.
- Allow workers who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault to use their paid sick days to recover or seek assistance related to an incident.
- Provide a simple method for calculating accrued sick time. Workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours per year, unless the employer selects a higher limit.
More than 120 organizations endorsed the Healthy Families Act of 2023, including the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, MomsRising, Family Values at Work, Paid Leave For All, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Nurses United, and A Better Balance.