Published on October 29, 2014 in The Jewish Advocate
A Yes vote supports Jewish values
By Sheila Decter and Jeremy Burton
On Election Day, Nov. 4, Massachusetts voters will be asked to vote on the issue of “earned sick time”, an issue closely tied to important Jewish values. Eighty percent of low-income workers in Massachusetts – close to 1,000,000 workers – cannot take a single day of sick leave without fear of losing their jobs or income. For many low-income workers, missing a single shift would risk their financial security and result in a low-income family falling even farther below the poverty line. A “Yes” on Question 4 would ensure that all workers have the opportunity to earn sick time in order to care for themselves and their loved ones who are ill.
Our Jewish sages teach us, “When a person becomes ill, it is a mitzvah for every person to visit, for we find that the Holy Blessed One visits the sick, as our Sages of Blessed Memory” (Talmud, Bava Metzia 86b) explained the verse (Genesis 18:1) “And G-d appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre…” teaching us that G-d came to visit Abraham when he was sick. We learn here that the obligation to help our friends and neighbors heal from sickness runs deep—so deep that our model for this commandment comes directly from G-d. In our community, there is no question that the sick among us have a right and obligation to do everything possible to heal, so the fact that members of our Massachusetts community are forced every day to choose between their jobs and their health is a failure to uphold our communal values.
Keeping sick workers and kids home keeps our Commonwealth healthy. Most of the nearly million workers in Massachusetts who do not currently earn paid sick time work in the service sector, which includes food and child care workers. These are the people who care for our elderly, serve our food, and care for our children. This means that when threatened with the loss of a job or a day’s pay, a sick person will need to go into work anyway, bringing illness with him or her. And if parents can’t take off from work to care for their sick children, then that means sending sick children to school. Consequently, the lack of “earned sick time” for all workers increases the risk to the public health as sick parents and sick children are not able to rest and get better. Here, in Massachusetts, where we have been on the forefront of universal health care with some of the most prestigious hospitals, health care institutions and researchers, this is an unacceptable and untenable situation.
Health care institutions including Baystate Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Partners Health Care, and Steward Health Care have come out in support of earned sick time because they know that this is one solution to a serious public health issue.
And those hospitals, as well as many other businesses, are able to support earned sick time because they know it is also a good business decision. Businesses which implement earned sick time find that it reduces employee turnover, reduces the spread of illnesses at work, increases productivity, lowers expenditures for health care services, and helps their bottom line. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has demonstrated that the benefits will outweigh costs with a paid sick time policy for Massachusetts workers.
On Nov. 4 when you go to vote, remember the lesson of Abraham and our obligation to all our neighbors when they are sick. Join us in voting “Yes On 4” for earned sick leave in Massachusetts.