Raise Up Massachusetts Fights for Higher Wages, Paid Medical Leave

It’s that time of year again, when at least one person you know is getting sick. The sound of coughing and sneezing is common in classrooms and Health Services is getting crowded with appointments. There is some leeway with missing classes at college, but what would happen in the workforce where sick days are limited? What if even missing one day had a significant impact on putting food on the table?

raise up massRaise Up Massachusetts is addressing this concern by pushing the state legislature to increase sick time and minimum wage.

The organization is comprised of faith, labor and community organizations that are fighting to get these issues on the November 2014 ballot. If they collect and certify at least 200,000 signatures, congressmen would have until May 2014 to pass laws on these issues. Both Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Ed Markey have signed the petition.

If enacted, the changes proposed by Raise Up Massachusetts would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour. This change would benefit the 650,000 workers who currently make only $8 per hour.

raiseupsignThe increase would also affect the 1 million people—about one third of the Massachusetts population—who do not have paid sick days and can’t risk taking off work because of their very limited income. More sick time would allow parents to take off from work to take care of their sick children and would encourage preventative care and good health.

Companies with over 11 employees would be able to give their workers five paid sick days a year, and smaller businesses could afford five unpaid sick days to workers.

“Job retention policies like earned sick time reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy,” states the Raise Up Massachusetts website. “When workers are able to earn sick time, it decreases employee turnover, limits the spread of illness at the workplace and maximizes productivity."

If these efforts are successful, Massachusetts would be the first state to put sick time on an official ballot. New York City now requires workers to have sick time and Connecticut passed a similar law in 2011.

Image via OECD/Wikimedia Commons.

Image via OECD/Wikimedia Commons.

The organization already has 34 local events to raise awareness and collect signatures, ranging from places like the Chestnut Hill T stop to farmers markets.

“We feel like we have a really good chance to win if it was on the ballot next year,” said Lew Finfer, a committee member of Raise Up Massachusetts. “But the most important part of the campaign really might be the signature gathering. If you get the signatures it sets up a different dynamic in that the people who organized the effort have a lot more chance to get what they want.”

The organization encourages citizens to share their stories and participate in events to increase the number of signatures. In 2008, legislators recognized that citizens wanted a public health care law based on popular petitions, and experts believe that this could happen again with Raise Up Massachusetts. Will you put your signature on the ballot?

Images via Raise Up Massachusetts/Facebook.

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