Church leaders celebrate July 1 start of earned sick time law

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The earned sick time law passed by voters last fall took effect July 1. The nearly one million hard-working people in Massachusetts without any access to paid sick time began earning their sick time on July 1. 

The faith-based group United Interfaith Action played a key role in its passage. UIA is made up of religious congregations in New Bedford and Fall River, including many Catholic parishes.  Congregations in UIA collected 9,000 of the signatures of  voters that qualified this for the ballot.

“The earned sick time law gives every worker a fair workplace to earn a living,” said Jack Livramento, a leader in United Interfaith Action and a parishioner of Our Lady of Assumption Parish in New Bedford. 

The new law guarantees every worker in Massachusetts access to the benefit of earned sick time, and prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off due to illness. At companies with 10 or fewer employees, workers can now earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to visit the doctor or take care of a sick family member. At companies with 11 or more employees, workers can earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time.

Providing earned sick time has shown to benefit businesses by reducing employee turnover and lost productivity. States and municipalities that have implemented earned sick time have seen job growth, and most employers report no negative impact on their profitability. Economists say that job retention policies such as earned sick time reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Question 4 on the ballot last fall won by a 59-41 percent vote.   The Diocese of Fall River as part of the Mass. Catholic Conference supported this measure.

“No longer will parents have to choose whether they will go to work or stay home taking care of a sick child or a sick loved one,” said Margaret LaFleur, another leader in United Interfaith Action and a member of St. Michael’s Parish in Fall River. “All workers have fewer worries if they are sick and have to take a day off from work. Lost pay or the threat of a lost job is now in the past.” 

Twenty-one Catholic parishes collected signatures to help enable this to get on the ballot last fall.

From New Bedford, they included Our Lady of Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James, St. Lawrence, and St. Anthony’s parishes.   

Catholic parishes collecting signatures in Fall River included St. Michael’s, St. Joseph’s, Santo Christo, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sacred Heart, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, and St. Anthony’s. 

Additionally, the parishes of St. Bernard’s in Assonet, St. George’s in Westport, St. Dominic’s in Swansea, St. Vincent de Paul and St. John the Evangelist in Attleboro, St. Patrick’s in Wareham, St. John Neumann in East Freetown, St. Anthony’s in Mattapoisett, and St. Joseph’s in Fairhaven took part.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts