Nov. 4th: Montclair & Trenton vote on paid sick days

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Next Tuesday, New Jersey voters have big choices to make. There are a lot of great, progressive candidates running in tight races. But if you live in Trenton or Montclair, the most important vote you can cast might just be at the bottom of your ballot. Local paid sick days laws are on the municipal ballots of both cities, and they could make a tremendous difference in the lives of workers within those communities — and even to working families around the state.

If you live in Trenton, pledge to vote YES on Tuesday here. If you live in Montclair, pledge to vote here.

It’s so easy to take something like access to paid sick days for granted if you have it. When you get sick, or your child gets sick, taking the time to care for them amounts to a minor inconvenience. But for people without paid sick days, each illness could mean either lost pay or a lost job.

These ballot initiatives would help keep the families, communities, and local economies of each town healthy by allowing everyone who works in the city to earn paid sick time they can use to care for themselves or their family members when illness strikes.

Over 40 percent of Trenton and Montclair workers don’t have a single paid sick day according to estimates from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. And they’re the workers who need them the most: low-income workers, and often people of color. The service industries that most often lack paid sick days are dominated by women, which is why women are four times as likely to lose their job over a family illness. For too many working women on the edge, a sick child means losing a day’s pay and losing your job is as easy as catching the flu.

Paid sick days laws have been endorsed by plenty of papers and plenty of local elected leaders. But our favorite endorsement came from the great Anne-Marie Slaughter, who wrote so eloquently in the Atlantic Monthly last year about why women still can’t “have it all.” Here she is in the Star-Ledger:

“[The lack of paid sick days] is a mindset held over from a different era, when a doctor’s advice to keep a sick child at home, or the school nurse calling to say that your kid is running a fever and needs to be picked up, meant that a stay-at-home wife was there to take over.

For most of us, those days now seem as quaint as Leave It to Beaver. It is one thing when we get sick and haul ourselves into the office coughing and wheezing, although a sensible workplace would encourage us to stay home and not to infect others. But when a child is ill, choice disappears. Someone must stay home to provide care.”

The fact is that while our families have changed, the workplace hasn’t caught up. A paid sick days policy in Montclair would give working women & their families their fair shot at getting ahead, not just getting by. It’s the right thing to do for this community, and it will make Montclair a fairer, healthier place to live and work.

That’s why NJ Working Families is working with partners and allies like the NJ Time to Care Coalition, NJ Citizen Action, CWA, Bluewave NJ, SEIU 32BJ and NJ Communities United to pass these local paid sick days laws through city councils and at the ballot box. It’s all part of a coordinated plan to make passage of a strong statewide paid sick days law practically inevitable. So far we’ve covered over 120,000 workers who didn’t have paid sick days before we started, and moved a statewide paid sick days bill into the fastlane. The media is calling it “the biggest wave of paid sick days victories ever.”

This Tuesday, we have a chance to make that wave even bigger — while covering over twenty thousand more New Jerseyans in Montclair and Trenton. Decisive wins in both cities will prove the potency of the issue at the ballot box, and send a message that not even Governor Christie can lightly ignore.

If you live in Trenton, pledge to vote YES on Tuesday here. If you live in Montclair, pledge to vote here.

And if you don’t live in either city but want to help, email NJWF Political Coordinator Craig Garcia at cgarcia@workingfamilies.org.