FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 2023
House Kills Bill Despite Overwhelming Voter Support
The bill would provide necessary relief to essential workers.
Legislators, essential workers, and advocates warn that the adverse effects of this will be felt by everyone – workers and consumers alike.
RICHMOND, Va– Yesterday, despite latest polls showing that voters overwhelmingly support all workers having at least five paid sick days per year, the Virginia House of Delegates struck down another bill that would have ensured Virginians could do just that.
A brand new poll conducted by 1983 Labs revealed that 91% of likely voters in Virginia feel that all workers should have at least five paid sick days per year.
Last month, the House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee #4 killed two paid sick day bills patroned by Delegate Guzman and Delegate Mundon King. The Senate passed SB 886, a bill introduced by Senator Surovell to provide paid sick days to grocery store and healthcare workers. On February 16, the House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee #5 killed SB 886 with no discussion about the crisis of 1.2 million workers in Virginia having no paid sick days. The House’s actions yesterday demonstrated complete disregard of the health and wellbeing of large numbers of workers in Virginia.
“I can’t believe we have to argue about something 91% of the public supports. Grocery store and healthcare workers are essential workers who need and deserve a few paid sick days,” said Senator Surovell, who patroned the bill. “Having these workers, and all workers, able to take a few paid sick days when they or their children are sick is good for families, businesses, schools, and communities.”
Paid sick days would allow workers to care for their short-term health needs or those of family members. Businesses would benefit from higher employee productivity, healthier workplaces, and lower employee turnover. Studies show that employees working while sick cost the national economy approximately $160 billion per year.
Janet Wainwright is a UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) union member and has worked at Kroger for seven years. She says that the adverse effects of not having paid sick days are far-reaching:
“The average person goes to the grocery store two to three times a week. The likelihood of consumers coming into contact with a sick worker is very high.”
However, the lack of paid sick days is dire for a worker who makes a moderate to low income. Taking just 3.5 unpaid sick days would cause a worker to lose income that would provide a month’s worth of groceries.
“As workers, we don’t want to have to come to work while sick, but if we take even one day off, we could lose our jobs, or not make rent,” said Janet Wainwright. “I have witnessed workers so sick while at work, they threw up in a trash can out back one minute, and then walked out front to serve the public the next minute. This hurts everyone.”
In 2021, former Gov. Northam signed a law (HB 2137) providing paid sick days to 30,000 Virginia home healthcare workers. But more than 1.2 million Virginia workers still lacked paid sick days – and continue to do so. Two-thirds of all grocery store workers and 1 in 4 healthcare workers, critical essential workers, have no paid sick days.
VICPP (Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy) Economic Justice Program Manager Jase Hatcher, who also staffs the Virginians for Paid Sick Days Coalition, said, “We know from polling and from our many conversations with Virginians over the years that an overwhelming majority of Virginians, Republicans and Democrats, support requiring employers to allow workers to earn at least five paid sick days a year. People must keep communicating these concerns to our legislators and candidates so they do the right thing.”
“Legislators need to listen to our voices – the voices of the workers,” said Wainwright. “That’s who makes up the majority of their constituents. We will not stop working to get this legislation passed.”
Prior to the latest poll results from 1983 Labs, a 2021 poll from Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center showed that 88% of Virginians support a law requiring employers to provide five paid sick days per year.
Virginians for Paid Sick Days is a coalition of 25 organizations across the state fighting to establish a paid sick day standard that keeps Virginians healthy and keeps our economy running.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, and social justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of 750 faith communities working for a more just society.
Ayesha Taylor, Director of Communications
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy