Earned Sick Time

The road to paid sick leave in contemporary America, including the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors, can seem unpaved and dotted with “turn back” signs. Could even a global pandemic wake us to the links between health, poverty, and inequality? In 2004, Senator Ted Kennedy introduced a bill that would allow workers federally protected time off if they, or someone in their family, were sick. Hoping to build momentum by passing it in the states, he was able to introduce the legislation in the Massachusetts legislature that same year through an ally. Despite Sen. Kennedy’s support, the bill never moved in the Massachusetts legislature. When it seemed that the dream died with Senator Kennedy, activists at the Greater Boston Legal Services picked up the fight and pushed on in Massachusetts. Working to broaden the campaign they partnered with Mass Alliance and then Deputy Director Jordan Berg Powers, to take the fight to a statewide level. The issue of paid sick leave was successfully picked up as a ballot initiative, sharing the political stage with the minimum wage ballot movement. Both ballot initiatives gave way to the founding of Raise Up Massachusetts–a grassroots coalition committed to building an economy that works for all of us. The collaboration of diverse sets of communities and groups proved instrumental in passing sick time through the ballot initiative in Massachusetts. It is through this victory that workers across the Commonwealth now have the right to secure earned sick time in all workplaces