A rally at Government Center Wednesday officially launched the campaign for an earned sick time ordinance for Miami-Dade workers.
“In this economy, we need to make sure that people can afford to stay home when they or a loved one are sick without fear that they’ll fall behind on bills or lose their job,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, the proposal's sponsor.
“No working person in Miami-Dade should be forced to choose between their family’s economic security and their family’s health.”
A lack of paid sick days heavily affects the county's huge and grueling restaurant industry, its 3rd-largest private sector employer with some 72,700 workers. According to a recent study by a advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers-United Miami, 74 percent of restaurant workers who have worked sick said they could not afford to take the day off without pay; 46.1 percent of those respondants reported never having seen a doctor.
Advocates argue that earned sick time -- which has been mandated in San Francisco (2007), Washington, D.C. (2008), Seattle (2011), Philadelphia (2011) and Connecticut (2012) -- strengthens economic security for working families, saves businesses the costs of staff turnover, increases production, and guards public health.
(40 percent of those who worked sick admitted to coughing or sneezing while handling food, according to the study.)
“A weak economy is no excuse to treat one another poorly—in fact it is a call to action," said Reverend Guillermo Marquez-Sterling of Coral Gables Congregational Church in a statement. "When times are tough, we need to support each other. No family should fall into debt or poverty because of the flu. No worker should be fired for taking care of their health. We are better than that.”
The rally was attended by a number of workers and supporters from organizations including South Florida Jobs with Justice, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, and Catalyst Miami, and unions including SEIU Local 1991, which represents more than 4,000 nurses, doctors and employees of Jackson Health System.
The Miami Herald noted it is too soon to tell how businesses will respond to the initiative.
“We will review the language once it is presented,” Lauren Searcy, spokeswoman for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, told the Herald.
The ROC study didn't offer language for proposed Miami-Dade legislation in terms of hours or days, but does recommend any compensation be given at the rate employees would typically earn by working their shift -- with tipped workers paid at a rate commensurate with their total average daily wage.
View the study below: