Paid sick days benefit entire community

As scholars and activists whose careers have focused on improving working people’s quality of life, we have long lamented this disturbing fact: The United States stands alone among the world’s most developed nations in not providing paid sick days for its workers.


The consequences are profound. The lack of sick days has helped create a phenomenon known as “presenteeism,” whereby people go to work even though they are ill. These workers — especially those in occupations with high degrees of public contact such as restaurants, hospitals and schools — expose others to illness and create health hazards.


Ample research suggests that workers, employers, families and communities benefit from paid sick leave policies. Workers enjoy a greater sense of family security and are more likely to seek preventive care. Employers benefit from reduced turnover, higher productivity and improved employee morale. The community gains by reducing a threat to public health. As one human resources executive has observed, “The bottom line is that it’s in everybody’s interest for sick workers to simply stay away.”


Providing paid sick days is a smart and sound public policy decision that will allow Eugene to join Portland and a growing number of cities in the vanguard of an important new social movement. Everybody benefits when workers and their families have the ability to protect their health.

We urge the Eugene City Council to approve a paid sick days ordinance and affirm our reputation as a community that regards the well-being of workers as a fundamental commitment.

Bob Bussel teaches history and directs the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. Margaret Hallock, an economist and former chairwoman of Oregon’s Pay Equity Task Force, directs the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics at the UO.

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