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Workers, Business Owners, Community Leaders Rally for Earned Sick Time

Raise Up Massachusetts Submits Over 25,000 Signatures to Secretary of State to put Earned Sick Time on Ballot

BOSTON – Dozens of workers, business owners, community leaders and grassroots supporters rallied today on the State House steps to kick off the next phase of the campaign to win earned sick time for all workers in Massachusetts.

“It’s time to give Massachusetts’ mothers, fathers, and all workers the paid sick time that they truly have earned,” said Senator Ed Markey, the lead signatory of the earned sick time ballot question. “When workers have the earned sick leave time they need to balance employment and family needs, it leads to increased productivity and loyalty for employers, and healthier work places and lower health care costs for the public. This is a win-win-win for Massachusetts workers, businesses and our economy. Passage of this critical ballot measure will make the Massachusetts the national leader as the state that passes the most comprehensive earned sick time benefit in the country.”

The rally was followed by a march to the Secretary of State’s office to hand deliver over 25,000 certified signatures that were collected to place earned sick time on the 2014 ballot.

“Massachusetts has near-universal health insurance coverage, but almost one million workers in our state can’t take a single day of paid sick time to visit the doctor or take care of a sick child,” said Deb Fastino, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. “We’re going to the ballot to ensure that Massachusetts workers have access to earned sick time.”

Since May 17, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition has hosted signature collecting and voter registration events in communities across the Commonwealth, with hundreds of unpaid volunteers reaching out to their neighbors, friends and coworkers. No contract signature gathering companies were paid in this campaign. The coalition has also collected hundreds of pledge cards and registered hundreds of new voters.
According to Massachusetts law, 11,485 signatures must be collected for a ballot question to appear on the General Election Ballot in November 2014. They must all be from voters who did not sign the ballot question in the first round of signature gathering.

“When I tell people about having to come into work sick because I can’t take a day off without the risk of being fired, they are eager to support our effort,” said Jesus Batista, a cleaner at Logan Airport. “My neighbors understand that workers deserve to have sick time to take care of themselves or their family.”

This second round follows the coalition’s successful signature gathering campaign last year, where a combined 285,000 signatures were collected. Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of more than 100 community, labor and faith organizations, engaged in a 10-week grassroots effort made possible with the support and leadership of thousands of unpaid volunteers across the Commonwealth who raised their voices for earned sick time and a higher minimum wage.

The minimum wage bill signed by the Governor on Thursday will give Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country and help more than 600,000 families.

“We won a higher minimum wage because of thousands of supporters across the Commonwealth who collected signatures, called their legislators, and organized their communities,” said Lew Finfer, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. “Now we’ll build on that victory by winning earned sick time at the ballot in November.”

The earned sick time ballot question would guarantee every worker in Massachusetts access to the benefit of earned sick time. For companies with 11 or more employees, workers would earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time to visit the doctor or take care of a sick family member. At companies with 10 or fewer employees, workers would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time.

“Hard-working Massachusetts parents should be able to leave work to pick up a sick child from school without the threat of losing their job,” said Emily Rodriguez, a personal care attendant from Springfield. “Giving workers earned sick time means they can stay home when they’re contagious and access preventative care, making workplaces healthier and helping to control health care costs.”

Providing earned sick time has shown to benefit businesses by reducing employee turnover and lost productivity. States and municipalities that have implemented earned sick time have seen job growth, and most employers report no negative impact on their profitability. Economists say that job retention policies such as earned sick time reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Workers who go to the emergency room because they can’t visit their primary care doctors during regular business hours cost us all money,” said Eileen Appelbaum, Senior Economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “By keeping employees healthier and more productive, earned sick time helps businesses and strengthens our economy.”