Did you vote in last week’s election and then miss the results? Been sleeping since? Well, we have a new Republican governor, your empty water bottles are still worthless, and we’re still getting casinos. On the good side, with the passage of Question 4 – Earned Sick Time for Employees – you may not go broke the next time you catch a cold. According to the Yes on Question 4 team:
- Every worker in Massachusetts will now be guaranteed access to the benefit of earned sick time.
- Employers will be prohibited from retaliating against workers who take time off due to illness.
- Workers at companies with 10 or fewer employees will earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to visit doctors or care for sick family members.
- Workers at companies with 11 or more employees will earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time.
We headed to Lir on Boylston Street on Election Night to hang with the Yes On Question 4 folks, who from now on will be known as the people who we thank when we don’t have to go into food service jobs coughing with sniffles. Come to think of it, everyone who eats in restaurants owes some gratitude to the more than 250 community organizations and faith groups who backed the measure.
After a long contest in which they faced off against paid liars and lobbyists, the coalition relaxed on the second floor at Lir, the smell of appetizers, beer, and victory in the air. Among the people celebrating: volunteers and campaign workers, voters, and more members of the media than you’d expect at a ballot question party during a governor’s race. They all watched eagerly until the votes finally skewed in their favor; by the end of the night, Earned Sick Time was approved by 60 percent (1,246,265 voters) of the statewide electorate.
On hand was Andrew Farnitano, a communications specialist at Crawford Strategies, which handled communications for the initiative. Farnitano called Question 4 efforts “a real grassroots campaign,” as in their opponents were the opposite.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from small businesses to the biggest employers, especially hospitals,” said Farnitano, countering the claim made by opponents that Question 4 would cripple small businesses.
Farnitano further addressed the dismissal of the proposal as a “union versus businesses” matter, explaining his belief that earned sick time benefits both parties with stakes in the game. “Employers recognize that when their workers stay healthy, they’re more productive,” Farnitano added.
Such sentiments were shared by Cindy Rowe, deputy director for development and outreach at the Jewish Alliance for Law. “Earned sick time is a basic human right, and we would be thrilled to see it pass on the ballot,” Rowe said. “Question 4 will provide workers with the dignity that they should have on the job.”
According to Grace Ross, a Question 4 coalition member and staffer with the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending, many Americans don’t realize that some members of the workforce aren’t automatically given paid sick time.
“[Earned sick time] feels so basic,” said Ross, who is also a former Green-Rainbow candidate for governor. “When we were out collecting signatures, you’d run into people who’d be like, ‘I have earned sick time … doesn’t everybody?”
Thanks to the Question 4 crusaders, if they live in Mass, they will soon.