By Jon Stinson
Augusta- Everyone gets sick at some time or another, such eventualities can force working class people to make some of the hardest decisions. When someone lives paycheck to paycheck, deciding to stay home and miss a day’s pay can often be a choice between one’s health and financial stability. A new bill in the Maine State legislature, LD 369, is attempting to make these situations a little easier for the average Maine worker.
LD 369 grants the Maine workers a number of rights that a few other states already provide to their citizens. Most significantly the bill grants workers the right to earned paid sick leave, affecting any employer with more than five employees. This leave would be earned at a rate of at least one hour per every 30 worked. The bill specifies that this time is permitted to be used for oneself as well as family illnesses. Lastly, for those who work at a company with less than five employees, LD 369 guarantees unpaid leave.
Maine State Senator Geoff Gratwick outlined the various sides of LD 369 when contacted. The Senator noted that a number of other states have similar statutes, “California, Maryland, and Oregon allow employees to accrue one hour of sick time for every forty hours worked. (While) Rhode Island employees must complete thirty-five hours of work in order to accrue one hour.”
This bill joins a trend in Maine politics, the revamping labor laws in the state. These motions in the legislature arrive in a mix of dismay and rejoice among citizens. For many people, the benefits of LD 369 would be an obvious positive to overall working conditions in the state. Although a number of people have raised concerns about the bill’s possible effect on small business, especially in the wake of Maine’s steadily increasing minimum wage that was adjusted in 2017 to better account for a steadily rising cost of living.
Many Maine business owners claim that mandatory sick leave is too costly for budding business in the state, on top of raising wages. These smaller employers worry that the rising costs will drive their products to be unaffordable for many of the consumers of the state. Large portions of the state are working class or on fixed incomes, rising prices can hurt these Mainers.
“The majority of children in Maine live in households where all the adults are working. Without paid sick leave provided by employers, parents may periodically face difficult and unnecessary choices between their health or their child’s health and their income.” Said Senator Gratwick. State secured sick leave would prevent working parents in Maine from having to make this choice.
Going forward LD 369 will face debate and eventual voting by the full legislature. Contact your legislator and voice your opinion on the bill as it enters deliberation in the coming weeks.