March 20, 2013

Jobs With Justice

Earned Sick Days Victory in Portland: A Campaign Across Generations

 Blog post courtesy of Family Forward Oregon

Last week, after a two-year campaign, Portland became the fourth city in the United States to pass paid sick days legislation.

This is a victory for workers in Portland and, according to Commissioner Fritz, who championed the legislation, “…a historic moment for human rights in America.” Just as labor laws like the 40-hour work week are celebrated today, so will we eventually celebrate the momentous sea change that stems from implementing good work-life policies that enable workers to both provide and care for themselves and their families.

This is a significant step forward in the long battle to recognize and support the needs of those providing care to the young and the old, while also ensuring that quality care is available to those who need it, when they need it.

Family Forward Oregon led a grassroots paid sick days campaign with a strong coalition of diverse local and national partners, including Jobs with Justice, that galvanized the voices of those most affected and created change from the bottom up. This successful partnership shows what we can accomplish when we build effective, participatory community activism into our movement from the beginning.

Just under half (41%) of Portland area workers in the private sector will be affected by this new legislation, the majority of them women, people of color, and low-wage workers. It will mean that people no longer have to work sick, lose needed income, or risk losing their jobs. It will also mean that the ‘family values’ we hear about so often in the United States will finally be a reality in the workplace, where our families desperately need them.

People working in Portland will be able to take time to care for themselves and the most vulnerable members of their family when they are sick, from the elderly parent who has an urgent doctor’s appointment to the child who is sent home ill from school. All families should have this right. That’s why we’re taking this effort straight to the state so that all Oregonians have equal access to job-protected or paid sick time when they are ill.

As our society ages and more people need care across every generation, we will continue to need policies (and workplace cultures) that don’t just allow, but actually encourage, families to take time to look after each other.

What’s good for working families is good for our economy and our health – in our city, our state, and ultimately our country.


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