Next Step: National Paid Sick Leave Policy
Legislators have proposed a growing number of legislative initiatives in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, many of them good. In this fast-moving situation, the Catholic Labor Network is mailing a special appeal to Catholic US Senators and Representatives enunciating two basic principles. First, that workers — especially low-income workers — must be made whole, whether they have lost income due to personal illness, that of a family member, or through social distancing policies to prevent spread of the virus. Second, that when this phase of the emergency has passed, America must join the other industrial democracies and adopt a national paid sick leave policy, which will both advance social justice and help prevent the spread of future pandemics. The letter reads as follows:
CLN Letter to Catholic Legislators on COVID-19 Response
The terrible COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the lives of Americans across the nation, but falling with special severity on low-income workers. According to the 2018 Federal Reserve Board Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making, four in ten Americans lack the savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense – yet millions of these workers stand to lose much more as COVID-19 shutters shops and restaurants, darkens casinos and stadiums, grounds airplanes, and closes offices.
As Catholic Christians, we know we will be judged on whether we have fed, clothed and sheltered “one of these least brothers of mine” (Matthew 25:31-46). We urge you to support any and all legislative proposals to replace lost income for displaced workers and the self-employed, with a priority accorded to low-income workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a light on one of the most pressing shortcomings of American public policy: the United States is virtually the only developed democracy that does not guarantee paid sick leave to workers. This glaring absence has almost certainly aggravated the spread of COVID-19 in the United States as low-income workers who could not afford time off came to work ill, exposing coworkers and customers to the highly contagious virus. We urge you to support any and all legislative proposals to guarantee paid sick leave to American workers and the self-employed, with a priority accorded to low-income workers.
We ask that you take action immediately to assist those in need and prayerfully consider additional means to make whole the men and women suffering in this time of crisis.