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50,000 New Yorkers Make Their Voices Heard for Paid Sick Days

By Cari Jackson, Director of Parent Organizing on
Cari Jackson, Director of Parent Organizing
Cari Jackson is A Better Balance's Director of Parent Organizing.
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Oct 12 in Paid Sick Leave

Last Thursday, I joined parents and community leaders from across the five boroughs on the steps of City Hall to deliver 50,000 petitions to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in support of the NYC Paid Sick Time Act. Today, Speaker Quinn continues to express her intention to block this bill, but we have given supporters greater leverage to move Quinn to the right side of history.

A little over a year ago, I stepped into this fight for Paid Sick Days. Many people, many groups had already been working toward it for years. But as a private citizen whose work was unrelated to activism or politics, I was basically minding my business. But for years, as a writer covering children’s and women’s health topics, I was absorbing the data from around the world that spelled out how very badly changes were needed for children and for families in the United States. Just forty years ago, 70% of families had one parent at home full-time. Today, 70% of families are single-parent or dual-income households. Yet workplace policies have not changed at all to accommodate this new reality. Too many businesses fail to accept that their workers have lives and children at home who simply cannot be ignored.

And then I became a parent, and I felt the squeeze. My family faced its own financial challenges over the past few years, but I imagined what it was like for families who faced even more obstacles than we did. I experienced the raw emotion of trying to make ends meet and then turning my attention to my child and trying so hard to set all of that anxiousness aside so that I could be a good parent. But I imagined what it was like for a single parent or dual earner families who did not have flexible work options like my husband and I do. That anyone can be a good parent under these conditions is a testament to the strength of parents in America. We do all of this without any recognition or support from our workplace laws.

But it’s time for that to change. And a little over a year ago, something inside me shifted, and I felt moved to act and to do what I can to change our laws to give parents the support that we need so that we can be both good parents and good workers. I went to A Better Balance to find out how I could help, and they helped me join the fight for paid sick days.

When I realized that Speaker Quinn was the only thing standing in the way of getting this passed, I was incredulous. With the help of many parents in Brooklyn, we threw a rally and we initiated this petition, which currently has 10,190 signatures.

What I’ve found as I’ve gotten involved is that many parents across this city and across the country feel the same way I do. I feel certain that we will see a groundswell over the coming years as parents realize that we deserve better. Countries around the world treat their families better than the United States. And in the richest, most productive country in the world, in the most powerful city in America, we deserve better.

Paid Sick Days is a commonsense and modest measure that would alleviate some of that stress for parents. It means that sick parents—and all workers—get better faster. It means that we can be there for our children when they get sick so that they feel safe and can heal more quickly and get back to learning and growing and enjoying life.

I don’t want any child suffering on a cot in school when he should be at home with his mom or dad. I don’t want any parent facing the agonizing choice between a day’s pay and caring for a feverish child. And when my son enters the workforce as an adult, I want him to enter a just system where people’s lives are respected.

We already have the support on the City Council that we need. We already know that the City of New York overwhelmingly wants this measure passed. And now, it’s time for Speaker Quinn to step aside and let the bill come to a vote. Anything less is an insult to our democracy and to the working families of New York City.

And I hope that all parents, regardless of where we fall on the socioeconomic scale or what benefits we enjoy at work, recognize that we share a responsibility to fight for these basic rights, out of sheer compassion for each other and hope for a better future for our children.

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For more photos from last week's rally, visit our Facebook page!

Tags: Paid Sick Time, Paid Sick Days, Parent Organizing
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