Fight for paid sick leave in the US reinforces importance of being part of your union
For Australian workers, the ability to take paid sick leave should you be ill or caring for an unwell family member is a basic working right.
The ability to do so though is the result of the collective strength of the union movement in securing and maintaining this right for all Australian workers.
The working rights and conditions we have as Australian workers owe their existence to the hard work, campaigning and sacrifice of previous generations of unionists.
Valuing this legacy and ensuring we do not become complacent in protecting these hard fought for working rights and conditions is never more reinforced than when workers in another developed country are denied them.
While it may seem extraordinary to think of being in a contemporary workplace where paid sick leave does not exist, for workers in the United States it only by being part of their union and having a collective agreement in place that this is guaranteed.
In the absence of a strong union movement and the increased influence and power of employers, the working rights and conditions of workers can and are threatened and actively removed.
IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said it may seem unimaginable for Australian workers but for nearly 40 million working Americans paid sick leave does not exist.
“In America we see the very worse of what can happen for workers when they do not have the strength and support of their union behind them – a situation where in fact you have governments actively putting in place laws to prevent workers from accessing this basic working right,’ he said.
“Currently, 11 American states have laws which prevent local governments legislating for paid sick leave for workers.
“Right now, despite the city of Philadelphia recently passing a law to provide paid sick leave to more than 200,000 local workers in need, the Pennsylvanian state government is looking to introduce legislation which would overturn this.
“The only guaranteed way for American workers to access this basic right is by being part of their union and in turn part of collective workplace agreement which ensures access to paid sick leave and other basic working rights and conditions.
“This unconscionable situation is a timely reminder to Australian workers of the continued importance of union membership and the collective support and strength it provides when it comes to what are very fundamental rights and conditions in the workplace,” Mr Burke said.
For more on the fight for paid sick leave for workers in the United States, click here to read a recent Huffington Post article.