Raleigh, N.C. — Advocates for low-income workers used the legislature's vacation this week to push for laws to require paid sick leave and family leave.
The vacation-themed press conference, complete with beach balls and Hawaiian shirts, included left-leaning groups Moms Rising, Action NC, and the North Carolina Justice Center.
Allan Freyer, director of the Justice Center's Workers' Rights Project, said the groups don't begrudge lawmakers the week-long break.
"It is great that lawmakers were able to take time off in the middle of a busy legislative session. We think it’s great because we think everyone in North Carolina should be able to take time off, particularly when they’re sick," Freyer said. "Right now, there are more than a million North Carolinians who work full time and don’t have access to paid sick days. That means they have to choose between keeping their job, earning their wages and being sick."
Jeannine Sato with Moms Rising said a minimum-wage worker who goes to work sick can infect other workers as well as customers. However, she said, taking unpaid days off to deal with illness or a child's illness could cost that worker hundreds of dollars in lost wages.
Sato said she hopes lawmakers will return next week refreshed from spending time with their families and will consider House Bill 270 (Senate Bill 339), which would allow workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to four days' worth per year at small businesses or seven days annually at larger businesses.
"Far too many in our state lack access to time to even recover from sickness, care for an ill loved one or even attend a doctor appointment, let alone the ability to take vacation or time to handle life’s emergencies," she said, adding that the issue is especially important to single mothers.
Paid sick leave bills have been filed by North Carolina Democratic lawmakers every session since 2007. But even under Democratic control, none has ever even passed a committee vote, let alone a floor vote in either chamber.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only three states have enacted paid sick leave statutes. Connecticut was the first in 2011, and California and Massachusetts followed suit in 2014.
The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.