What I Learned from Canvassing for a Week in Lancaster on Paid Sick Leave

By Paige Lower, Organizer for Lancaster and York Counties

12194940_737940686311558_844003417970657229_oI spent a week canvassing Lancaster to learn more about the sentiments around paid sick leave. What I learned was somehow both astonishing and unsurprising at the same time.

I figured there would be two groups of people, one group thinking that workers already received sick days and ultimately giving them a mind-blowing reality check when they learn the opposite, and the second group somehow thinking that giving paid sick leave would hurt small businesses and the economy. At the end of the week, I was able to add a third group, one where people actually supported it.

When I spoke to people in the city, I received mostly support for passing paid sick leave, but they lacked the confidence in our legislators in getting anything passed. Those I spoke to were also largely made up of the group that didn’t realize that workers didn’t receive sick days. Many of them said that they would not appreciate being served food by someone who had the flu or leaving their child in a daycare where the workers were sick and handling their children.

Moving to the outskirts was a different story. Many of the people I spoke to either didn’t want to talk to me or they were under the impression that paid sick leave would ultimately cause small businesses to lose money (they would also finish their statement with, “I bet you support raising the minimum wage, too.”).

I did find a few people that I was able to bring to the light. When I spoke to them they didn’t have much of a sentiment one way or the other, until I asked them where they take their children to daycare. Upon telling them that they spend about $450 a week per child, yet that daycare can only pay its workers upwards of $9/hour and also force them to work when they’re sick or their own children are ill, many of them changed their tune. In fact, one mom said that she was going to inquire to her child’s daycare about their policy and contemplated pulling her child out if they do not allow their workers paid time off when they are sick.

All in all, Lancaster lived up to how I thought it would be, but I was pleasantly surprised that I received some good feedback from a group of people I fully expected to express complete dissent towards the concept of workers getting paid time off when they or their family are sick. It gives me hope that Lancaster County can pave the way to get workers a right that so many of us take for granted.