Press Release Economic Crisis and Recovery Government Health and Social Programs Unions United States Workers

Close Call with Economic Disruption Punctuates Need for Guaranteed Paid Sick Leave Policy, says CEPR Expert

September 15, 2022

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington — The White House helped broker an agreement this morning that averted a major disruption to the nation’s supply chain. The key to averting a strike by 12 unions that represent 115,000 railroad workers at six of the nation’s largest freight carriers was about sick leave. CEPR Co-Director Eileen Appelbaum responded with this statement:

“It staggers the imagination that in September 2022 the workers who keep the trains running did not have even one sick day to care for themselves. 

“Railroad management was intransigent on this point, a key union demand, until President Biden got involved in the negotiations. Top brass at the railroads were willing to have a strike and plunge the nation back into supply chain hell, rather than grant this reasonable request. The details have not been made public yet, but it appears that railroad workers will get one—let me repeat that—one paid sick day a year. 

“This, as much as anything that has been written, emphasizes the need for the US to guarantee sick workers some form of paid sick days and paid medical and family leave legislation.

“Even in the face of this pandemic, Congress is reluctant to permanently mandate a paid sick leave program. According to the most recent data, there are about 540,000 workers still out due to COVID-19. It is very disappointing that the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act left the provisions addressing the care economy on the cutting room floor. The US came very close to joining the rest of the industrialized world by enacting a national paid family and medical leave program.

“Not including a robust paid leave program as the nation continues to struggle with public health crises places unreasonable burdens on all workers and not just the millions of low-income workers unlikely to have access to benefits through their jobs.”

Dr. Appelbaum, author of Unfinished Business, Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy, is available to the press for interviews.

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