When Roberson Pierre, a security guard at Miami International Airport, injured his foot on the job, he faced a grueling choice: go to the doctor’s office the next day and forgo a day’s wages, or go to work and push through throbbing pain.
For Pierre, a father of two and an employee of a security firm contracted by Miami-Dade County, the decision was gut-wrenching: he would have to work through the pain and skip needed medical attention. As the breadwinner of his family, he could not afford to miss a paycheck.
Pierre is among a growing number of workers around the country who cannot take days off from work because their employers do not offer earned sick or family leave. This means that when family emergencies arise or illnesses strike, these hardworking women and men must show up for work or risk being laid off or missing out on a day’s wages.
Hardworking families should not be placed in such a bind. In the 21st century, we should respect the dignity of work: workers should be allowed to take paid time off to care for their children, their aging parents, or themselves without sacrificing a paycheck or even their job.
To tackle this issue here at home, last month I introduced legislation at the Board of County Commissioners that would require county contractors to provide paid sick and family leave to their employees. This landmark legislation has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of workers throughout our county.
When we announced the new legislation last month, I was proud to be joined by faith leaders, labor unions, women’s organizations and nonprofits that support effective policies for working families.
One of Miami-Dade’s leading health care unions, SEIU Local 1991, says earned leave policies are also needed to prevent public health issues that arise when employees go to work sick because they cannot afford to take days off.
Miami-Dade County employees are already offered these benefits. It’s only fair that similar benefits are provided to contracted workers who also provide services to county residents on the government’s behalf.
By applying these new rules to contractors with 15 or more employees and to contracts worth more than $100,000, this legislation respects the needs of small businesses and won’t bar them from accepting lucrative county contracts.
This legislation will have its next public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 9:30 a.m. in the downtown Government Center. The community is invited to attend this meeting.
To improve the lives of our working families and build a community that works for all, we must act courageously and take bold action at the local level to respect the dignity of work.