To the Editor:
The Cumberland Times-News Feb. 27 article, “Chamber of Commerce opposes bills for required paid sick leave” (Page 1A) presented a one-sided account of a measure that could improve the lives and communities of more than 700,000 Marylanders.
This unbalanced article failed to mention the broad legislative support this bill has, as well as its extensive economic and public health benefits.
If passed, SB 753/HB 968 would allow workers across Maryland to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. Employees could use this leave to recover from an illness or care for an sick family member.
The chamber may oppose the proposal, but your readers should know that this legislation comes with significant benefits for both businesses and workers.
Research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that this legislation could save Maryland businesses as much as $15 million per year in turnover costs and other expenses.
Advocates have worked to lessen the bill’s impact on small business by exempting businesses with nine or fewer employees and including a shift-swapping provision as an alternative to paid leave in restaurants and other businesses with similar scheduling.
Passing the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act would mean an improved standard of living for many in your coverage area, as well as growth in the local economy.
When workers are able to take time off for illness without losing income or risking job loss, they are able to cover the cost of necessities and put money back into your economy by shopping at local businesses.
For the average low-wage worker, taking just three days of unpaid leave can mean the loss of an entire month’s grocery budget.
This risk is magnified in Allegany County where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 17 percent of residents are already living in poverty and more than 34 percent of households earn less than $25,000 a year.
Compounding this is the fact that low-wage workers, especially those in the service industries, like 23 percent of Allegany County residents, are among the least likely to have access to paid sick days.
For many this means they are forced to go to work when they are ill, infecting not only their coworkers, but customers as well.
Clearly, The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act ensures that workers don’t have to choose between their health of the health of their family and their job.
I hope that as the Cumberland Times-News continues to cover the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act you will consider the economic security and other benefits this proposal will bring to people across our state.
Jason Perkins-Cohen, executive director
Job Opportunities Task Force