When I get sick, I can take the day off from work and still get paid. And when my son gets sick, I can take the day off, care for him and still get paid. I don’t have to worry about my paycheck, who will take care of my child or that I might be fired if I don’t go to work.
This is not the reality for all working parents in California. Approximately 5 million Californians do not get paid sick days. So a huge number of working parents in our communities have to make an impossible choice: take care of themselves or their children when they are sick or lose a paycheck for the day. And losing a paycheck may mean not being able to pay the rent that month or buy enough food to feed their family.
The Los Angeles City Council will soon have the chance to right this wrong for L.A. hotel workers, many of whom currently do not get paid sick days. A bill is moving through the Council that would provide hotel workers with a living wage and five paid sick days.
The ACLU supports the Raise LA campaign because basic economic rights are inextricably intertwined with civil rights and civil liberties. When Californians lack basic economic security – when they are unable to or must struggle to fulfill basic human needs – they cannot fully exercise their civil liberties and civil rights.
But paid sick days and a living wage are also an important reproductive justice issue. Too often people think of reproductive freedom narrowly as only the right to decide not to have a child. But it is much more: it is the right to decide to become a parent and truly be able to raise your child in a happy, healthy and safe environment. True reproductive freedom – reproductive justice – means you have meaningful choices when it comes to parenting and that if you decide to have a child, you can actually meet their needs and tend to them when they are sick.
You lose your reproductive freedoms when you fear your employer will fire you or when you can’t take a small sliver of time off to care for your sick child without losing a needed paycheck. No parent should be forced to choose to tend to their sick child or put food on the table.
Anyone who cares about reproductive justice should take up the cause for living wage bills with paid sick days.
Director of the LGBT, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project
ACLU Southern California