Thank God for Sick Days & Hard Earned Victories

Thank God for Sick Days & Hard Earned Victories

February has been rough. For two solid weeks I was sick, missing three days of work and pushing through a lot more miserable days, or leaving early when it just wasn’t working. I know many of you have also caught bugs in the last few months (thanks winter!) and if you’re like me and you have sick days available through your employment, you probably have been thanking God!

However, so many in our city and society are not so lucky. Many people have to choose between going to work sick and making rent, or worse going to work sick or losing their job.

While I was sitting in bed one day, I began to think about what I would do if I didn’t have access to sick days through my job. Would I be able to make rent that month? Would I have to ask for help from my family? What if I had contracted something more serious? Would I have lost my job? And I was asking those questions, knowing that I have a support system, and knowing that I am privileged in so many ways (education, class, race, etc). If I felt fear and confusion, how would someone living at the poverty line feel when she takes her temperature and sees that she has a fever? What choices would she make?

These questions jumped out at me, because on February 12, Mayor Nutter signed the Earned Sick Leave Ordinance into law to give the majority of Philadelphia workers earned sick days. This makes Philadelphia only the 20th City to pass a law guaranteeing this basic dignity to workers.

However, it has been a long fight – advocates first began pushing for Earned Sick Time for works in 2005, making this a victory 10 years in the making! In early February, Rev. Gregory Holsten from New Vision UMC in North Philadelphia testified on behalf of POWER in support of this legislation. And now the law goes into effect in 90 days…unfortunately past the winter flu/virus season, but still!

If you want to learn more about the law, here’s the Philly.com article.
Also, one of POWER’s organizers, Fabricio, has blogged about the 10 year fight to get the legislation signed into law. There are two posts:
“After 10 Years Paid Sick Leave May Finally Pass” AND “Paid Sick Leave Finally Passes After 10 Years.”

I wanted to include this reflection in our epistle this week for two reasons:

(1) So, we can lift of voices of thanks and prayer for the work of POWER’s economic dignity team. Rockstars!

(2) also to share that this is one of the things I love about being a part of POWER’s work. I had no part in the organizing towards getting this ordinance to become law. None. In fact, I ignored some emails about showing up at hearings to testify earlier this month and then learned the law had been passed while I was surrounded by tissues in my sweatpants in bed. However, that’s why being a part of a church and a faith advocacy community like POWER is so great – because our capacity to make change and be the voice of hope and love in this world is so much greater than just one person. I’m proud that POWER was able to be a part of pushing for this legislation!

And who knows, perhaps someday having earned sick time might be the different between keeping a person from falling from the poverty line right into the arms of our shelter. Or perhaps the pattern of cities pushing for earned sick time will continue to gain momentum and permanently change the structure of our employment system in the United States. I can only hope!

This spring, Mimi C.J. and I will be leading a creative campaign to get the full fair funding formula passed in June. This, like the fight for earned sick time, has been a long fight that so many – in our congregation, in POWER, and beyond – have been pushing for, but we can all still be a part of fighting for a just education system for our city.

I’d invite you to consider whether you feel called to be a part of this advocacy work – if so, we’re meeting on Sunday at 10:15am before church in the church office. {Or if you’ve been thinking about advocacy work, but don’t think volunteering with POWER is quite right for you, please reach out to me, I’d love to chat and share resources, for example Bread for the World’s “An Offering of Letters,” that I have!}

In the meantime, I just have to say on yet another cold day in February – “Dear God, thank you for sick days! And thank you for hard earned victories! Amen!”

Hannah C.