Workers, business owners, state legislators, community and labor groups hold press conference calling for action on statewide paid sick days legislation
(SALEM, OR) – At a press conference in the Oregon State Capitol, the Fair Shot For All Coalition today pointed to the state legislature’s lack of progress on paid sick days, retirement security and other issues impacting income inequality. Joined by workers, business owners and several state legislators, the coalition called on lawmakers to take immediate action on a strong paid sick days law.
“Memorial Day typically marks the beginning of the end of the legislative session – and our lawmakers haven’t yet acted on key policy changes that will give hardworking Oregonians a fair shot, such as sick days and retirement security,” said Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon and Chair of the Fair Shot for All Coalition. “We are standing here today with working Oregonians and business owners to send a message loud and clear: it’s time to pass critical policies for working Oregonians.”
Enacting a statewide paid sick days law is one of the coalition’s top priorities. Forty-seven percent of private-sector workers in Oregon currently lack paid sick time, forcing them to chose between working sick, sending a sick child to school or losing a day’s pay when they or a family member fall ill.
“Ensuring every working Oregonian can afford to stay home when they are sick will help keep our workplaces healthy and businesses strong,” said Senator Sara Gelser. “I’ve heard loud and clear how important this issue is to Oregonians. I promised the people who elected me that I would fight for it, and I’m here to keep that promise."
Senator Sara Gelser was joined at the press conference by colleagues Senator Michael Dembrow, Senator Chip Shields, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, Representative Peter Buckley, Representative Shemia Fagan, Representative Joe Gallegos, Representative Paul Holvey, Representative Barbara Smith Warner and Representative Jessica Vega Pederson.
Paid sick time has gained widespread support over the last few years as three states and 16 cities have now passed laws and approved measures allowing workers to accrue and access paid sick days. The City of Portland and the City of Eugene are among those approving their own city ordinances.
“I’ve worked at a grocery store in Salem for 19 years, but when I’m sick I still have to make a choice between staying home to get better or coming in to work,” said Melody Gramley, who works at a grocery store in Salem, Oregon. “It doesn’t matter if I’m coughing, sneezing, or have a fever – if I’m not at work, I’m not getting paid. It shouldn’t be a luxury to have a day to recover from the flu or to take care of your kids when they’re home sick. We need our legislators to take action to help working Oregonians – and we need them to do it now.”
Low-wage workers are less likely to have access to paid sick days than higher-paid workers. In Oregon, 82 percent of those earning more than $65,000 annually have access to paid sick time, compared to 29 percent of Oregonians earning less than $20,000 annually.
“My employees live in the same community I do – they work hard and they deserve time to take care of their families and to recover when they’re sick,” said Peter Emerson, owner of Bipartisan Café in Portland, Oregon. “Rather than detracting from my bottom line, paid sick time helps me retain talented employees and fosters more productivity.”
More than 300 people turned out to a February hearing on the paid sick days bills (SB 454 and HB 2005) with a strong showing among supporters of the bills—including workers, business owners, public health experts, community members, organizations, schoolteachers and more.
More than 10,000 Oregonians have signed a petition in support of paid sick days.
“Let me be clear: until there is strong paid sick days bill on the governor’s desk, we’ll be working around the clock to make sure that Oregon workers have the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Paluso.