Group Is at the Forefront of Paid-Sick-Leave Effort

Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:34pm

The National Partnership for Women and Families in 2004 began its push for paid sick leave when it launched its “Campaign for Paid Sick Days,” and played an integral role two years later in helping San Francisco secure the first-ever ordinance mandating paid sick days in the United States.

“We are the hub of both coordination and activity on this,” said Vicki Shabo, the group’s director of work and family programs. “We help to connect grass-roots and national organizations.”

Founded in 1971 as the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, the partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization located in Washington, D.C. These days, it is advocating in more than two dozen states and cities around the country to advance policies mandating paid sick leave.

“We work really closely with other national groups that are working on this issue, both federally and on the state and local level,” Shabo said. “We really bring to bear a deep expertise on the policy, as well as on how to move these policies.”

Although Connecticut is the only state with a paid-sick-leave law on the books, Shabo said that could soon change, citing progress being made in Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon and Washington state.

“We see a ton of activity bubbling up,” Shabo said.

The partnership and other advocates for paid sick leave have been tested recently in places like Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed for the second time legislation mandating paid sick leave, and in Florida and Louisiana, where measures pre-emptively banning paid-sick-leave laws have been approved. Similar pre-emptive proposals are popping up in Mississippi, Michigan, Arizona, Indiana and Washington state.

These state pre-emption bills make an even stronger case for a national standard, like the one proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Shabo.

“No matter where you live or work, no one should have to choose between job and family because he or she cannot earn paid sick days,” she said. “And lawmakers increasingly know it.”