|Today, President Obama is proposing that Congress pass the Healthy Families Act, a bill that has been introduced in prior Congresses which mandates that employers give workers paid sick leave. He’ll also sign an order giving federal workers paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child.|
Republicans will object, perhaps quite vociferously. As Democrats roll out an agenda to address inequality and win support from middle-class voters, this is an issue that highlights a fundamental philosophical difference between the parties, one that Democrats are hoping they can turn to their political advantage.
First, some basic facts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39 percent of private sector workers get no paid sick leave, and the lower you go down the income scale, the less likely you are to get it. If you’re an executive you’ll get paid if you stay home with the flu, but if you’re an hourly fast-food worker you almost certainly won’t. That imposes all kinds of costs on both workers and companies, from spreading disease when people are forced to work when sick, to increasing turnover as people lose their jobs because of illness.
This is yet another area where the United States stands alone among highly developed countries. Every one of our peer countries mandates that employers provide paid sick leave; in some cases the employer just has to pay for it, and in some cases taxes create a fund that pays people when they’re too sick to...