MEDIA RELEASE: First in series of Paid Sick Days town meetings draws dozens to High Point

First in series of Paid Sick Days town meetings draws dozens to High Point
About 25 people gathered to raise awareness about North Carolina's Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act, which has gained endorsements from dozens of organizations

HIGH POINT (March 17, 2009) - Economic health is intimately linked with public health, and a growing movement in North Carolina is pushing for a key new labor standard that would promote both.

On Tuesday, March 16, two dozen people met at Deep River Friends Meeting Fellowship Hall in the first in a series of town hall meetings to be held throughout the state. Numerous individuals and more than 30 groups -- including health care organizations, women's groups, and advocates for children, families, and older Americans -- have signed on to the NC Paid Sick Days coalition, a group backing seven guaranteed days of sick leave each year for North Carolina workers.

"It's a basic human right for workers to be able to earn a basic number of paid sick days," said Tamara Mason, one of the local coordinators of the event and a staffer with the American Friends Service Committee in Greensboro.  "Workers should not have to make the tough choice between losing a day's pay or even their job and taking care of themselves or a sick family member."

Advocates working on the campaign joined with community members to raise awareness and share stories about how paid sick days can improve life for North Carolina's working families.

"I'm here because I know what it's like not to have paid sick days," said Terry Austin, a resident of Jamestown, NC and a current staff member at Fund for Democratic Communities.  "Until I found my current employment, I was juggling 3 part-time jobs and struggling to make ends meet.  Taking a day off from one, two, or three of my jobs and losing pay was just not an option for me.  Paid sick days are a basic and critical standard for working parents."

The NC Paid Sick Days Coalition's immediate aim is passage of the Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act, HB 177/SB 534. Now introduced in both the North Carolina House and Senate, the bills have garnered dozens of co-sponsors, with 27 on the House bill and 14 on the Senate version.

"Everyone gets sick, but not everyone has a chance to get well," said Louisa Warren of the NC Justice Center, coordinator of the NC Paid Sick Days Campaign. "Guaranteed paid sick days help workers, benefit employers by preventing lost productivity, and promote public health, too."

Primary sponsors of HB 177 include Representatives Alma Adams (D-Guilford), Dan Blue (D-Wake), Deborah Ross (D-Wake), and William Wainwright (D-Craven) and Senator Katie Dorsett (D-Guilford) is the primary sponsor of SB 534. The companion bills would ensure that workers across North Carolina have access to paid sick time to care for themselves, a sick family member, or to deal with consequences relating to incidents of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Sponsors for the High Point event included the Fund for Democratic Communities; Beloved Community Center; United Auto Workers, Local 5287; North Carolina Occupational Safety & Health (NCOSH); Deep River Friends Meeting; Raise the Wage Campaign; American Friends Service Committee; and the NC Justice Center.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, communications director, NC Justice Center, 919.863.2402 (office), 503.551.3615 (mobile); Louisa Warren, NC Paid Sick Days Campaign Coordinator 919.856.2183 (office), 919.961.3360 (mobile); www.ncsickdays.org.