Washington, DC…There are a couple different stories you can tell about our economy. One goes like this. Eight years after the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, our economy has created jobs for 71 straight months. That’s a new record. Unemployment has fallen below five percent. Last year, the typical household saw its income grow by about twenty-eight hundred dollars – the biggest one-year increase ever. And the uninsured rate is at an all-time low.
All that is true. What’s also true is that too much of our wealth is still taken by the top – and that leaves too many families still working paycheck to paycheck, without a lot of breathing room.
There are two things we can do about this. We can prey on people’s worries for political gain. Or we can actually do something to help working families feel more secure in today’s economy.
Count me in the latter camp. And here’s one thing that will help right away: making sure more of our families have access to paid leave.
Today, having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families. But right now, millions of Americans don’t have access to even a single day of paid sick leave. So if you get sick, that sticks you with a lousy choice. Do you go to work and get everyone else sick, too? Or do you take care of yourself at the risk of a paycheck? If your kid gets sick, do you send her to school anyway? Or do you stay home to take care of her, lose a day’s pay, and maybe even put your own job at risk?
We shouldn’t have to make choices like that in America. That’s why I’ve repeatedly called on the Republican Congress to pass a law guaranteeing most workers in America the chance to earn seven days of paid sick leave each year. Of course, Congress hasn’t acted. But we’ve also worked with states, cities, and businesses to get the job done – and many have, pointing to research showing that paid leave actually helps their bottom line. In fact, since I took office, another ten million private sector workers have gained paid sick leave – making up a record share of our workforce.
Unfortunately, there are still about 40 million private sector workers who don’t get a single day. That’s why I’m doing what I can on my own. Effective on January 1st, federal contractors will be required to give their employees working on new federal contracts up to seven paid sick days each year. That’s happening. It will help about one million workers when they or a loved one gets sick. It will cover time you need for preventive care. It will cover absences resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault. And it means everyone else is less likely to catch what someone else has got – whether it’s a coworker or the person preparing or serving your food.
Paid sick leave isn’t a side issue, or a women’s issue, or something that’s just nice to have. It’s a must-have. By the way, so are economic priorities like child care, paid family leave, equal pay, and a higher minimum wage. We need a Congress that will act on all these issues, too, because they’d make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Americans who are working hard every day. It’s more than talk – it’s action. And that’s what you should demand of every politician who wants the privilege to serve you.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.