Monday, October 26, 2009

Speaking Out for Paid Sick Days: My First Lobbying Experience

By Caitlin McCannon

When I arrived at the office of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, I didn’t know what to expect from the experience of lobbying. I knew that I was no high-priced lobbyist. I knew I wasn’t well-connected to the Washington beltway or even the Georgia State Capitol.

Still, I had a story to tell; one that the Senator needed to hear.

My story is about the lack of paid sick days and the need to pass the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would guarantee every American worker the opportunity to earn paid sick days.

Currently, nearly 57 million workers lack paid sick days. And, 100 million workers don’t even have a single paid sick day they can use to care for an ill child. That leaves folks with some awful decisions; especially low-wage workers like me. But no one should have to choose between keeping a job or income and caring for themselves or a loved one in times of occasional illness.

That’s what I told the Senator.

I told him I work at a movie theater on nights and weekends. The schedule each week came to mean the difference between making the rent payment, paying the utilities, having dinner each evening . . . or not.

At the theater, if you cannot not work the hours you are scheduled -- for any reason, including being sick -- those hours got to another employee who CAN work them. Or, those hours go to a new hire that can come in and take your place on the rotation. Not only will you lose that night's pay but you’ll lose the next week’s pay as well. Being sick is a liability that most of the employees just cannot afford. And, having a sick child could mean that you can’t feed that child. What kind of a choice is that?

The concession worker behind the counter scooping the popcorn and filling the drinks, the usher tearing tickets, even the box office cashier handing you your change, all of us have come in to work at one time or another, knowing we’re sick, knowing that we may pass along disease, but needing the shift, needing that pay.

We have not only endangered ourselves, but the public as well. Think about that the next time you’re snuggling down into that movie theater seat with your jumbo popcorn and extra large fountain drink. You might be getting a little swine flu with that extra squirt of butter. How many restaurant employees, fast food workers, child care aides, nursing home aides, how many other low-wage workers go into work sick because they can’t afford to take the time off? It boggles the mind to think about how many of us are working when we should be home in bed or going to see a doctor.

If Congress passes the Healthy Families Act, working while sick would not be a necessity. Employees could earn paid time off to recuperate at home during bouts of occasional illness. Children could stay home with a parent by their bedside when they are ill. With swine flu spreading, passage of the HFA is critical. We’d all be a lot better off and families wouldn’t be faced with such tough choices in these tough economic times.

That’s what I told the Senator the day I became a 9to5 lobbyist.

Caitlin McCannon, the Technology Intern in the 9to5 Atlanta Office, is a senior Cultural Anthropology major at Kennesaw State University. Reach her at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Does Having an Effective, Family-Friendly, Workplace Matter?

You bet it does!

And paid sick days for every worker is a critical element. Check out what a new report from the Families and Work Institute finds ...
"Employees who receive at least five paid days off per year for personal illness report significantly better work and health/well-being outcomes. Fifty-six percent of employees with at least five paid days off for personal illness report high job satisfaction compared to 49% with less than five days off. Within the five-plus day group, 71% report no signs of depression, versus 61% of those with less than five days off."

Read about paid sick days, and more, in "The State of Health in the American Workplace: Does Having an Effective Workplace Matter?" at

Share your own paid sick days story by emailing

Let's come together to speak out on the need for the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation guaranteeing each worker the opportunity to earn seven paid sick days each year. Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the Healthy Families Act now!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unemployment Changes Little



Regional and state unemployment rates were generally little changed in

August. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia reported over-

the-month unemployment rate increases, 16 states registered rate decreases,

and 7 states had no rate change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

reported today. Over the year, jobless rates increased in all 50 states and

the District of Columbia. The national unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent

in August, up 0.3 percentage point from July and 3.5 points from

August 2008.

Read the entire release at:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Activist Shines a Light on Milwaukee's Troubling Paid Sick Days Decision

Ted Bobrow is a native New Yorker but he is dedicated to making his "adopted" hometown, Milwaukee, a better place for working families. A strong 9to5 ally, Ted wrote a compelling piece for ThirdCoast Digest, one of Milwaukee's most vibrant online sites.

In "City's Troubling Decision to Sit Out Paid Sick Leave Appeal," Ted questions Mayor Tom Barrett's unwillingness to stand up for the voters who approved paid sick days in an overwhelming vote and Ted applauds the Milwaukee Chapter of 9to5 for continuing to fight the good fight for paid sick days.

Read the full story at’s-troubling-decision-to-sit-out-sick-leave-appeal/

And, contact your members of Congress, urging them to support the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would guarantee every American worker the opportunity to earn up to 7 paid sick days a year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Listen to Linda on Women's Radio News

Want to hear more about 9to5, our issues, our campaigns? Want to get valuable information about creating change in work-family policy, like paid sick days? Then, "tune in" to Women's Radio News today and tomorrow (9/14 and 9/15) at

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EFCA: Who Will Take a Stand for Working Women?

Unions have been key in achieving justice for workers. Historically, unions have been a reliable way to reach economic self-sufficiency and the American dream. And in this economy, unions are integral to economic recovery.

Women have a huge stake in unionization and worker justice. And they have a huge stake in legislation that supports the rights of workers, which is why women's voices are critical to the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Denver Post published, not only the views of the members of 9to5 in a recent Sunday guest commentary piece, but the vision of all of us who believe in a free choice.

You can read the op-ed here:

Stand up for working women: Pass EFCA

By Linda Meric
POSTED: 08/02/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

When President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act in January, the nation's attention refocused for a short time on the pay inequity and gender bias that still plague the American workplace. That moment passed, and women are still paid less than men, earning only about 78 cents for every dollar, with women of color earning even less.

The Employee Free Choice Act is one sure way to address this gender-based pay gap. Unionization can provide important economic security for low-wage Colorado women and their families.

In Colorado, women who are in unions earn nearly 6 percent more than women who aren't union members. Nationwide, that difference is about 35 percent.

The benefits of union membership for women in low-wage occupations are even greater. Among those working in the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members not only earned more than their non-union counterparts, they were also 26 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 23 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than those who were not members of a union.

"For women, joining a union makes as much sense as going to college," said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of the CEPR study "Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers."

"All else equal," said Schmitt, "joining a union raises a woman's wage as much as a full year of college, and a union raises the chances a woman has health insurance by more than earning a four-year college degree."

Health insurance is just one of the positive workplace standards unions can provide for working women. Union representation is also one of the strongest predictors of family-flexible workplace policies.

More than 60 million American workers lack a single paid sick day to care for themselves when ill, and nearly 100 million workers lack paid sick time to care for an ill child. No one should lose a job because they have to care for themselves or a loved one. Companies with 30 percent or more unionized workers have been documented to be more likely than non-union companies to provide paid time off to care for sick children (65 percent compared to 46 percent).

That's why passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is so important. It would put the choice of how to form a union back into the hands of workers. A free choice means that workers would have the option of unionization if a majority of them sign up.

The Employee Free Choice Act will protect women and men who join together to negotiate with their employers for health care, fair wages, retirement security and paid sick days.

As President Obama said in signing Ledbetter, we owe a change to our daughters — and our sons.

Now is the time for that change. It's time that our economy worked for everyone again. Please join me in calling on Congress to stand up for working women and pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Linda Meric is executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, a membership organization of low-wage women working to improve corporate and public policies that directly affect them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Barbeque, Apple Pie and the Healthy Families Act

For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a day for fireworks, concerts, parades and all manner of patriotic displays. It’s as American as barbeque ribs and apple pie, reminding us of freedom, justice, community, hard work and family values; the shared ideals that define us as a nation.

We don’t need a holiday or special celebration to honor working families. But we all occasionally need time off from work to share the responsibility for our family’s health. Still, the Fourth of July is a perfect time to contact our leaders in Congress and ask that they celebrate our national values of family and work by supporting the Healthy Families Act (HFA).

On May 18, Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Healthy Families Act to the 111th Congress. HFA is designed to allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can take care of their own and their family’s health needs. Care-giving responsibilities can be one of the biggest hurdles working families face in their quest to realize the American dream of economic self-sufficiency. But nearly 60 million American workers lack a single paid sick day in which to care for themselves when occasional illness strikes. Nearly 100 million lack a paid sick day to care for an ill child.

For these Americans, the lack of this basic labor standard presents unconscionable choices: whether to stay home and get better or go to work to keep from losing a job. On this Fourth of July holiday – and beyond -- there is lots of work to do to make work, well, work. Go to to learn more about the Healthy Families Act. Share the information with your family, friends, co-workers, community members. Urge them to take action today by contacting their members of Congress to insure that they support the Healthy Families Act.

While we’re waving our flag this July 4th, let’s really honor all Americans by moving toward passage of the Healthy Families Act.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

For Father's Day: Pass Healthy Families Act

Sunday is Father’s Day, a day designed to complement Mother’s Day, to celebrate fatherhood and male parenting, and to honor and commemorate our fathers and forefathers.

Even the White House is calling extra-special attention to Father’s Day 2009.

President Barack Obama is kicking off a new initiative on fatherhood and mentoring with a visit to a nonprofit job training center, by hosting a town hall meeting on personal responsibility and by inviting male students from a local high school to the White House to hang out with some famous Dads.

As on Mother’s Day, many of us will bestow all manner of gifts on Dad – but the last thing Dad needs is another necktie.

For Father’s Day, we need to ensure that Dads can stay home from work when they, their children, spouse, or parents are ill -- without putting the family’s economic self-sufficiency at risk. That’s why, for Father’s Day, we need to pass the Healthy Families Act (HFA).

Co-sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Edward Kennedy, the HFA would make it possible for workers – Dads, Moms and others – to earn up to seven paid sick days per year. The HFA would also allow all workers access to paid sick days to recover from domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.

Almost 60 million Americans lack a single paid sick day in which to care for themselves when illness strikes. In addition, nearly 100 million workers don’t have a paid sick day they can use to care for an ill child.

Everyone occasionally gets sick – Dad included. And everyone needs the time to recover. But those without paid sick days risk their jobs to do so. If we listen to the President’s wisdom about personal responsibility, we also know that Dad needs time to share in the family care-giving responsibilities. Being able to use paid sick days to care for a sick child would make this more possible.

This year, to truly celebrate fathers, we need to give the gift of paid sick days by passing the HFA. Contact your members of Congress to let them know you support passage of the Healthy Families Act. Visit to find their contact information.

Give Dad a gift that –unlike all those ties – will never mysteriously disappear; a guaranteed basic labor standard of paid sick days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

9to5 Supports Expansion of Federal Hate Crimes Law

9to5 has long supported the establishment and strengthening of federal and state hate crimes legislation as part of our commitment to combating discrimination. The organization is currently speaking out in support of a pending federal bill. See the letter below for more details.

June 15, 2009

Members of the United State Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the members and constituents of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, I urge you to support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S 909).

9to5 is a 35 year old national membership-based organization of low-income women working to improve policy on issues related to ending discrimination, strengthening the safety net, and creating good jobs with policies that promote family-flexibility. 9to5 has long supported hate crimes legislation to address acts of violence motivated by predudice and hate. We strongly support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The Matthew Shepard Act will expand existing federal hate crimes law to include protections for those targeted because of real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. Further, it will remove overly burdensome obstacles to federal prosecution. The bill allows the federal government to assist local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, or to become involved when local law enforcement is either unable or unwilling to take appropriate action. The Attorney General or other high-ranking Justice Department officials would be required to approve all federal prosecutions, in order to avoid duplicating state efforts.

Acts of violence motivated by prejudice and hate are attacks not only on the individuals who are the victims of the specific criminal acts. Hate crimes represent acts of violence and intimidation against entire communities of people, based solely on who they are.

The time is now for Congress to expand and strengthen existing hate crimes law. Please support this vital legislation and sign on as a co-sponsor. Thank you for your consideration. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this matter further.


Linda A. Meric
Executive Director

Monday, May 25, 2009

Women Created "Decoration Day," the forerunner of what we know as "Memorial Day"

By Linda Meric

Today is Memorial Day, a day we have come to know as the start of summer fun: BBQs, street festivals, yard work and the like. But few know that this national holiday, enacted to commemorate those who have died in war, was actually created by women.

The women in the South who started "Decoration Day" did so to call for an end to the division in the aftermath the Civil War and to honor all those who had lost their lives in a war that pitted North against South.

As Joan Wages, president of the National Women's History Museum points out, the forgotten role that women played in the creation of Memorial Day is just one more example of how the true story of the contributions of women in this country remains untold.

Read her commentary at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Fight Swine Flu Virus, Take a Paid Sick Day and Call Me in the Morning

By Linda Meric

In light of the outbreak of swine flu virus in Mexico – and the 64 confirmed cases, so far, in the United States – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that “to stay healthy” people should cover their mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, wash their hands more often, and avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

The CDC also recommends that if you feel sick, you should stay home from work, limiting contact with others to keep from infecting them. It’s that final recommendation that might prove the fatal flaw in health education efforts designed to avoid a swine flu pandemic in the United States.

Many American workers who feel ill can’t stay home from work. They must go to work anyway because so many – 57 million workers to be precise – don’t have a single paid sick day. Especially in this dismal economy, most workers cannot afford to help protect the public health by staying home when they are sick because doing so might mean that they lose a day’s pay, or even worse, their jobs.

Low-wage workers are the least likely workers to have jobs that allow them to earn paid sick days. What does this mean for an America in fear of a pandemic flu virus? It means restaurants, child care centers, nursing homes, hotels, public transit systems, schools and offices across the country could potentially be full of infected workers, who should be home in bed or at the doctor’s officer getting treatment, but will be on the job instead. It means that instead of containing and minimizing public health risks, we’ll be maximizing them. It means many sick workers could be making other workers – and the public – sick.

Coming to work sick doesn’t help employers either. Workers who must report to work when they are ill are less productive. They don’t save money for business; they add to the costs of doing business. The United States is the only industrialized nation that has no state or federal law requiring paid sick days. As a result, half of the workforce has none. In addition, 100 million workers lack a single paid sick day they can use to care for an ill child, spouse or parent. Not only do we lack a federal sick leave policy, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee are the only cities that require employers to provide paid sick days for all workers.

Most Americans, though, believe paid sick days should be a basic right guaranteed by law. Public opinion polls show that a majority consistently list paid sick days as “very important.” Allowing workers to take short breaks from their jobs when their health, or the health of their families, demands it, made sense to nearly 90% of people polled in 2007. This basic labor standard is feasible, affordable, and is good public and workplace policy.

Senator Ted Kennedy and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro are expected to re-introduce the Healthy Families Act in Congress next month. It would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or their families. Women’s, labor, education, community and other organizations are calling for members of Congress to co-sponsor, support, pass – and send the Healthy Families Act to the President’s desk. Maybe this swine flu scare, along with the voices of the American people, will move our Congress to action. To fight the spread of disease and ensure the public health, a basic labor standard for paid sick days is the remedy.

Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women

For Equal Pay Day: Full-Size Paychecks for All

By Linda Meric

National Executive Director

On this Equal Pay Day 2009, 9to5 members from the Midwest to the California coast will distribute 3/4–size cookies and vegan cupcakes to show the persistence of the gap between what women earn and what men earn.

More than four decades after Congress made wage discrimination based on gender illegal, women in the U.S. still earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s a fact based on Census Bureau statistics of all full-time, year-round workers in this country. For women of color, the gap is even wider. African-American women earn only 69 cents for every dollar earned by men, Latinas only 59 cents.

But let’s be clear: women don’t choose to earn less than men. There are several factors at play, including the fact that women are overrepresented in undervalued and underpaid occupations. For instance, women make up 99 percent of the secretaries, 97 percent of the child care workers, 76 percent of the household servants and 72 percent of the restaurant servers.

In addition, too many working women are penalized financially for care-giving because they lack access to policies like paid sick days and family leave insurance. Another factor is the continuing social pressure on young women and girls that dissuades them from considering scientific careers. As an example, 34 percent of all high school aged girls in the US report being advised by a faculty member NOT to take math in their senior year. And finally, there’s straight out gender discrimination. It is a reality that even when working in the same occupation as a man, women earn less!

This year, this nation took a small but significant step forward in closing the pay gap. On January 29, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which reverses the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in 2007 (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.) and restores the ability of victims of ongoing wage discrimination to hold their employers accountable for injustice and challenge the practice in court.

Up next is the Paycheck Fairness Act. In January of this year, a bi-partisan effort helped pass it in the House of Representatives. Now it must be passed in the Senate. It will equip women with the tools to fight gender-based wage discrimination by updating the Equal Pay Act and requiring that employers prove that gender-based pay differences are legitimate. It will make the remedies for wage discrimination as strong as remedies for other types of discrimination and remove the barriers that have kept women from joining together to fight wage discrimination in class action lawsuits.

What else can we do? Let’s work to keep equal opportunity programs in place, so that education, jobs and promotions are open and offered to women. Let’s call on our employers to examine pay practices and correct them if inequities exist. And let’s support work-family policy like paid sick days and family leave insurance so that women aren’t penalized in their paychecks for care-giving responsibilities at home. On Equal Pay Day 2009, let us all resolve to stand-up for ourselves in the workplace and speak out about injustice.

The sad fact is that if the wage gap continues unchecked, women won’t reach pay equity until the year 2057 -- and we can’t afford to wait that long. Let’s close and eliminate the wage gap now:

Full-size cookies, cupcakes – and paychecks -- for all!