MEDIA RELEASE: North Carolina coalition works to fight real “Contagion"

North Carolina coalition works to fight real “Contagion”
New On-Line Video Highlights True Stories of Workers Forced to Go to Work Sick
RALEIGH (Sep. 12, 2011) -- As the new blockbuster film Contagion, a thriller about a global flu pandemic, finishes its first weekend at the box office, advocates are releasing an online-video calledContagion: Not Just a Movie.
The web film, produced by Family Values @ Work, shows the stories of five American workers who have been forced to go into work when they are sick because they weren’t allowed to take off or couldn’t afford going without pay.  Working sick in restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops and on the school bus, they worry about passing on their illness to co-workers, clients, customers and riders.  These workers are some of the 44 million Americans without paid sick days who risk their families’ financial security or their jobs if they stay home when they are ill. 
“Because a Fayetteville food server with an illness couldn’t take time off without losing a job, thousands of North Carolinians were exposed to hepatitis this year,” said Louisa Warren, coordinator of the NC Paid Sick Days Coalition. “North Carolina knows better than most states how important it is for workers to have access to paid sick days.”
Approximately 1.3 million North Carolina workers lack access to even one paid sick day.
In an introduction to the web video, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Boston Public Health Commission, warns: “What’s most frightening about this film is that flu epidemics are real, and they can spread quickly.”   
“As a public health official, I know the best thing to do when you’re ill is to stay home,” she says. “In our country, everyone has the right to stay home when they’re sick; they just don’t have the right to get paid, or to keep their job.” Dr. Ferrer points to paid sick days policies as a way to help prevent a real contagion.

With working families across the country struggling to make ends meet, taking unpaid time off is not an option for too many hard-working Americans, even when they are sick.
The film features a grocery cashier, a coffee barista, restaurant workers and a school bus driver who have all gone to work sick because of the financial responsibilities to their families.  Only 19 percent of low-wage workers, like those featured in the film, have paid sick days. Three in four food service workers, three in five personal health care workers and three in four child care workers, all of whom have significant interaction with others, do not have paid sick days. 
“Our country’s health and families’ financial stability should not be undermined by a lack of paid sick days,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national network of state coalitions, including the NC Paid Sick Days Coalition, all working for paid sick days and paid family leave policies.  “Support for paid sick days is growing across the country as a common sense, cost-effective policy that protects the public health, supports our families and helps our economy.”

Paid sick days legislation is gaining significant momentum this year. The North Carolina legislature is currently studying the issue after considering a paid sick days bill last year. Connecticut passed the first statewide paid sick days law in June, and City Councils in Seattle and Philadelphia are voting on paid sick days legislation this week. Voters in Denver will be able to support paid sick days on a ballot initiative this November.  The Governor and Secretary of Labor in Massachusetts are supporting a bill in the state legislature, and in New York City, 35 City Council members are sponsoring legislation. 
In Georgia, a bi-partisan group of state legislators led by five Republicans is supporting a bill that would ensure workers could use sick time they’ve earned to care for their children and loved ones.  
More than a dozen other states have coalitions actively organizing in support of paid sick days and paid family leave policies. San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws, and Milwaukee passed a paid sick days ordinance through a voter referendum which received nearly 70 percent support.
To view the video, “Contagion:  Not Just a Movie,” visit here.

The NC Paid Sick Days Coalition is a member of Family Values @ Work, a national consortium of state coalitions fighting for paid sick days and paid family leave.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Louisa Warren, Policy Advocate, North Carolina Justice Center,, 919.801.0465; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center,, 503.551.3615 (cell).