2014 promises another string of wins for policies like paid sick days that boost the economic security of families and of the economy overall. Recently two political leaders reminded us of the urgency of our task.
On New Year's Day, Bill de Blasio spoke to a large audience at his inauguration as the 109th mayor of New York City. There he affirmed his commitment to take on the issue of inequality - and began his list of policy changes with expanding the city's new paid sick days law:
"When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won't be easy; it will require all that we can muster. And it won't be accomplished only by me; it will be accomplished by all of us -- those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.
"You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law -- because no one should be forced to lose a day's pay, or even a week's pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won't wait."
As Mayor de Blasio pointed out, the urgency of the "inequality crisis... is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds." Like the thousands of activists across the country fighting for and winning paid sick days, Mayor deBlasio understands that we wage this fight "not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people," and because "our responsibility to each other - our common cause - is to leave no [one] behind."
Just a few weeks earlier, former President Bill Clinton spoke at an event for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. President Clinton began by describing cities as models for innovation, a place where "you start with a challenge, a problem or an opportunity, you figure out how to solve it and you work through to a practical solution." And the example he gave was paid sick days.
"I'm really excited about what the mayor's doing here," President Clinton said. "I hope you support what he did on paid leave. I hope you're proud of the fact that Jersey City is only the sixth city in the country to do that. That's a big deal. Why? Because one of the key challenges of a growing country is to get men and women into the workforce while their kids are still young. In order to do that, you have to make it possible for people to balance work and family. So this sick leave deal is a big thing."
The new laws in Portland, Oregon and SeaTac, Washington went into effect on January 1. Watch for Newark, NJ to bring in the next win later this week as campaigns heat up in cities and states across the country. Our coalitions will continue to prevail because families need this change now -- and more leaders are championing these policies because it's smart politics, given the widespread, bipartisan support.