A Much-Needed Remedy: Bernie Sanders Proposes Paid Sick Leave for US Workers

Bernie Sanders is back in the spotlight, and this time, he’s tackling the paid sick leave issue in the United States. As the only wealthy nation without guaranteed paid sick leave, it’s about time we get on board with this basic workers’ right. Sanders and Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would finally offer workers the ability to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave annually.

For every 30 hours worked, employees would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time, up to 56 hours of leave per year. These hours can be used not only for personal illness or doctor appointments but also for caring for sick family members and children. With over 120 organizations endorsing the bill, including major labor unions like the AFL-CIO, it’s clear that this is a long-overdue reform.

The U.S. currently lags behind the rest of the world in providing paid sick leave, with approximately 34 million workers (25% in the private sector, 9% in the public sector) unable to earn a single paid sick day. This has far-reaching consequences for American workers. Studies show that those without paid sick leave are three times more likely to avoid medical care, putting their own health and the health of their coworkers at risk. This disproportionately affects lower-wage workers, who are often forced to choose between losing crucial pay or attending work despite being unwell.

Sanders, in a passionate call to action, emphasized the importance of truly supporting family values by passing this bill. He pointed out that when husbands can’t care for their wives during cancer treatment or when mothers must send their sick children to school because they can’t afford to stay home, these are direct attacks on what families stand for.

It’s an international embarrassment that the richest country in history doesn’t guarantee paid leave for its workers, especially when record-breaking corporate profits and excessive CEO pay are taken into account. Lawmakers at the press conference also called for Congress to pass universal paid family leave, which is not included in the bill. It’s worth noting that the U.S. is the only wealthy country—and one of only seven worldwide—that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave for its workers.

Sanders and many Democrats have previously fought for universal paid sick and family leave to be included in budget reconciliation packages, but conservative Democrats in Congress have opposed such provisions. Despite this opposition, the idea of guaranteed paid sick and family leave enjoys overwhelming public support. Last year, a Navigator poll found that 80% of voters support establishing universal paid sick and family leave, including 89% of Democrats.

Bernie Sanders’ Healthy Families Act is a step in the right direction for American workers. It’s time for the U.S. to catch up with the rest of the world and provide the basic right of paid sick leave to millions of hardworking individuals.