“The biggest wave of paid sick day victories ever.” That’s what a leading national outlet said about our campaign to bring paid sick days to New Jersey. Since last Tuesday, four NJ cities have passed groundbreaking paid sick days legislation, ensuring people working in those cities no longer have to choose between their paycheck and their family’s health when illness strikes.
The entire ThinkProgress article is worth a read, but here’s one highlight:
Many groups across the country have advocated for paid sick days laws that require employers to let their workers earn leave for when they or their family members fall ill. And there have been successes along the way: as of last year, seven laws had been passed. But that progress has seen a huge speed up this year, with heavy concentration in New Jersey. After Jersey City passed a law in October last year and Newark followed suit in January, September saw a rash of wins in the state: four different cities in about a week all passed laws. That’s the biggest wave of success in the history of the movement ever.
It’s thanks to the launch of a concerted campaign begun by Mejia’s group along with New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Time to Care, labor unions, community groups, workers, and others. The current effort traces back to when New Jersey became the second state ever to institute paid family leave and advocates who were working on that bill pivoted their focus to working on a statewide paid sick days law. But when Gov. Chris Christie (R) was elected, he came in vowing to undo the family leave law, dimming hopes of paid sick days.
Then New York City passed a paid sick leave law in June of 2013 and New Jersey’s activists were inspired to take another tactic. “Once New York happened, some things clicked,” Mejia said. “We shared information [with the organizers in New York], we looked at what folks were able to do, the coalitions they were able to build in New York City and realized we had an opportunity to shift our strategy in New Jersey and get a lot of workers covered and build momentum.”
To put it all in perspective: six of the thirteen U.S. cities with paid sick days on the books are in New Jersey. As of this week, local laws cover 10% of the 1.2 million New Jersey workers who can’t earn a single sick day.
This campaign’s not over by any stretch — we still have to win in Trenton and Montclair this November, and eventually pass a statewide bill — but it’s worth celebrating how far we have come in such a short amount of time.