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Comparison of paid leave availability by race
American exceptionalism always gets a big round of applause from most U.S. audiences. That's at least partly because politicians who speak about the matter fail to get specific after saying ours is the most powerful nation on the planet, which is undoubtedly true, and the most prosperous, which depends quite a lot on how that is measured.

In fact, some examples of American exceptionalism are pathetic. Take, for example, paid leave. As Laura Clawson has written,  the United States lags far behind not only the developed countries in guaranteeing paid leave—sick leave, family leave, medical leave—but lags most of the world's less developed nations as well:

Only one in five low-wage workers have paid sick leave, and 48 percent of all full-time workers in the private sector have no access to paid medical or family leave.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research found in a 2009 study of 22 nations with comparable economies that the United States was one of only three that did not have policies mandating employers to provide paid sick leave for short-term illnesses. (The other two were Canada and Japan.) The United States was the only nation of those 22 not to provide at least some paid days off for employees undergoing a 50-day cancer treatment.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has found that people of color are less likely to have access to paid leave of any kind than are white workers, women are less likely to have it than men, and private-sector workers are less likely to have it than those in the public sector. But, in every category, every sector, large percentages of all workers must take days off without pay if they get the flu, have to take care of a child or elderly parent or recharge with even a short vacation.

Across the board, Latinos are the least likely to have access to paid sick days (only 38.4 percent) or paid parental leave (only 25.1 percent) of any racial or ethnic group. Some opponents of paid leave legislation argue that workers do not need leave that is specifically earmarked for illness or birth when they can take paid vacation instead. Fewer than half (44.3 percent) of Latino workers, however, even have access to paid vacation [as compared with 63 percent or better for whites, blacks and Asians], and many workers cannot use vacation on a moment’s notice, like when a child wakes up with a high fever and a father needs to take an unplanned sick day. For too many Latinos, being a good worker and a good family member has become mutually exclusive.
Opposition to paid leave is firmly rooted in the Right. This will, it is said, hurt small businesses and should not be a matter for government to be "meddling" in. Statistics, however, show that the lack of paid leave harms not only individuals but the economy. For instance, only 42 percent of Latinos visited a medical professional in 2010, 15 percent below the overall national average. The failure to see a physician (or a dentist) over a long period of time can result in expensive visits to the emergency room. One study CAP cites concluded that if paid sick days were universally required, it would result in 1.3 million fewer emergency room visits and save the economy $1.3 billion annually.

But that's not the only savings. The American Productivity Audit completed in 2003 found that 71 percent of the $226 billion in lost productivity due to illness occurred because of sick employees showing up to work. Other studies have also shown that "presenteeism" of ailing workers is a larger productivity drain than absenteeism.

The key reason for Latinos being less covered for paid leave than other Americans is straightforward enough: Latinos are far more likely to earn less money than whites, blacks or Asians or to be in professional work categories where paid leave is more likely. It's no surprise to anyone that low-wage jobs provide fewer benefits and less protection for workers.

A thrice-proposed law would go part of the way to making the United States less exceptional in this arena: It's the Healthy Families Act introduced last year by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. The bill would require employers to allow workers to earn seven days of paid leave time including paid time for family care.

The bill never made it out of committee. Similar legislation didn't emerge from committee in the 111th Congress. And similar legislation didn't even get a hearing in the 110th Congress. There's no excuse for this. Hearings should be held, the bill tweaked if necessary and reported for a full debate and vote on the Senate floor. In a Senate with a majority of Democrats, passing it, in the absence of a filibuster, ought to be a piece of cake.

The House is, of course, another story. But even when Democrats can't get past the obstacles Republicans put in their path, they should be showing the nation the kind of legislation they would be passing and signing into law if voters gave them the majorities they need. One thing about showing what you would do if you had enough voters behind you is that the presentation itself helps get more voters behind you.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:55 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yep, Many Here Tried to Make That Last Point (6+ / 0-)

    about demonstration policies during 2009-10. Motivating voters isn't solely about governing efficiency which argues not to ask for things that won't pass, but about motivating voters by showing them promise for the future. Occasional demonstrations can be crucial in moving the window.

    Republicans have used that strategy since forever.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 02:07:23 PM PST

  •  I often wonder why -- if American business is (6+ / 0-)

    So awesomely magnificently wonderful -- why it is the only business community in the world that seems completely incapable of functioning as part of a modern democracy with advanced social services and policies.

    "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery these dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

    by Rikon Snow on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 02:26:32 PM PST

  •  The US does a poor job on worker's protections (7+ / 0-)

    ...across the board. That, however, is systemic to the perspective of the constitution.

    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 02:28:54 PM PST

    •  How do you get that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber

      from this:

      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

      "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 04:06:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The document that follows that preamble (0+ / 0-)

        ...was written for the benefit of slave holders. And still is. No human or civil rights were conferred directly upon individuals. It's an obsolete systemic nightmare in so many ways -- and that reality shows up more and more in comparisons across developed nations.

        But, it's not my problem and I see no point in pushing for change. It is considered an "entrenched" constitution at this point -- which no longer has a functional upgrade path.

        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 04:31:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nonsense (0+ / 0-)

          You ignore the virtually instantaneous adoption of the Bill of Rights and the governmental balancing effects of Madison's checks and balances.  We fixed slavery some time ago, there's a movie out if you missed the book.

          "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

          by johnmorris on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:53:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We not only did not FIX slavery (0+ / 0-)

            ...but the US has more slaves currently than any other nation in the world:

            Commercial prisons in the United States today hold 220 thousand people behind bars. In American literature, this phenomenon is dubbed «prison slavery». This refers to the use of prison labor. It should be clarified: it is the use of prison labor for profit by private capital (as opposed to, say, such work as cleaning areas and facilities in prison, or the execution of any work in the public interest).

             he privatization of prison labor in the U.S. is carried out in two main forms: 1) The lending of state prison inmates as labor to private companies. 2)The privatization of prison institutions, turning them into private companies of various forms of ownership (including stock ownership).

            The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits forced labor, contains a caveat: "Slavery and the forcible compulsion to work, except for punishment for a crime properly convicted, shall not exist within the United States." Thus, in U.S. prisons slavery is legal.

            How legal is it?
            By 2008, 27 states already had 100 private prisons. These prisons are operated by 18 private corporations. The largest of them are the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and G4S: they controlled 75% of all private prison inmates. In 1986 shares of CCA began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2009, its market capitalization was estimated at 2.26 billion dollars.
            American slavery is big business for US corporations with the slaves earning about four cents per hour. In case anyone is wondering where their jobs went, this is the answer.

            Private prison companies sell the American slaves' work product and pocket the profits for themselves and their shareholders. And the slaves are never released. They live their short lives in slavery and die in prison.

            In prison, in contrast to industrial companies, there can be no talk of a strike, trade union activities, holidays, or sickness. To encourage prison slaves to work the employers promise early release for good work. However, it applies a system of fines, which can actually lead to life imprisonment.
            So, what American jobs do they replace, and what do they produce? It's a long, long list, but here's an example:
            Today, American prison slaves produce 100% of all military helmets, uniforms, belts and shoulder belts, vests, ID cards, shirts, pants, tents, backpacks and flasks for the country`s army. In addition to military equipment and uniforms, prisons produce 98% of the market in installation tools, 46% of bulletproof vests, 36% of home appliances, 30% of headphones, microphones, megaphones, and 21% of office furniture, aircraft and medical equipment, and many more.
            Thank you US Constitution, the oldest, stingiest, and most obsolete of the currently active contracts in the known universe.
            The prison industry is one of the fastest growing industries, and its investors are on Wall Street.

            This multi-million dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and online catalogues. It has direct advertising campaigns, has design and construction firms, investment funds on Wall Street, building maintenance firms, food supply companies, it has armed security, and soundproofed rooms.

            Our transnational corporations (TNCs) no longer have the incentive to transfer their production from the U.S. to economically backward countries. It is even possible that the process can go in the opposite direction.

            Read and learn.

            This is nothing.

            It's the least of it for the asset-stripped American Colonists.

            A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

            by Pluto on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:55:23 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Unicor (0+ / 0-)

              The prison helmet manufacturer withdrew from the market in 2010 due to safety concerns. The largest maker of uniforms is American Apparel of Los Angeles CA. We have a problem with prisons and using prisoners for manufacturing part of it but that's not because of the constitution.

              "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

              by johnmorris on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:54:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I believe we should have at least two weeks (0+ / 0-)

    of paid vacation and at least 5 paid sick days.  This is a minimum and should be mandatory for all full time employees.

    I am not so on board with part time employee having the same, as being that they are part time...then they already have time, that full time employees don't have, to do their business etc.

    •  Many people are forced to take on 2 or even.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Meteor Blades, Ebby

      ..3 part time jobs to make ends meet, often times because of unscrupulous employers cutting back full time employment with the sole purpose of denying the workers those benefits that full time employees receive.

      Another trick used by employers is to label a full time employee a "contractor" to cut them out of needed benefits.

      Every employee deserves some reasonable amount of paid sick leave and vacation time imo whether they are "fully" employed or held just under the required number of hrs.

      But this..

      ..should have at least two weeks of paid vacation and at least 5 paid sick days.. and should be mandatory.. a good start
    •  The same method can be used as the... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ebby, Eric Nelson

      ...Healthy Families Act requires but on a pro-rated basis. You get vacation sick leave time based on how many hours you work. So, part-timers would get paid time off commensurate with their paid time on.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 07:18:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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