Two things made President Barack Obama’s paid sick leave announcement timely.
From the political standpoint, it was Labor Day, and Obama is feeling the need for another at least symbolic signal to unions that he and Democrats are still on their side – even though he is pushing for a free trade agreement that unions fear will send even more jobs abroad.
From the human standpoint, it is that time of transition between seasons when many of us – for no apparent reason – suddenly feel lousy and want to take a day off work to keep from spreading to our co-workers whatever germs are attacking us.
Obama announced that starting in 2017, all federal contractors will have to provide their workers with an hour of paid family medical leave for every 30 hours they work. That amounts to about seven days a year for full-time employees.
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He chose Massachusetts as the backdrop for his message because voters in the state approved a similar paid leave policy statewide. That state’s law took effect July 1 and is expected to affect 900,000 workers who previously received no paid leave, the White House told The Associated Press. So far, observers say, the effect on companies which have to pay it has been minimal.
Roughly 44 million American private sector workers don’t get paid sick leave, the administration said. On the White House website, it estimated about 300,000 employees of federal contractors would be most affected by Obama’s announcement.
The U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t require that its workers get paid sick leave.
It’s another of those cases of American exceptionalism that aren’t much to be proud of.
Whether or not Obama’s pronouncement had a political backstory, it was the right thing to do.
This excerpt is from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho.