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Paid sick leave is a women’s health issue

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We need to remember that women’s health matters even if they are not a mother or caretaker, and benefits like paid family and maternal leave are not the only way to support women as individuals in their own right. The implementation of paid sick leave for employees across every industry would have an enormous impact on women’s health. If people—especially women or anyone with a uterus—can’t take care of themselves, it also makes it harder for them to care for their children, families, and wider communities.

A women’s health issue

Like paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave is beneficial regardless of gender, but women could benefit from it the most. Our society undervalues women, but “at least” tends to place more value on women if they are mothers. This current recognition is far from enough, and the idea that maternity leave can be classified as a short-term disability is highly problematic. However, it’s equally important to break free from the idea that children are the expectation and end goal—or that having children is even possible for everyone.

After all, shouldn’t women be able to take care of their own health so they can decide if motherhood is right for them? And shouldn’t taking care of one’s health be accessible to all women, not just those who make a certain amount of money or women who work in certain industries? Women deserve time to care for themselves unconditionally, regardless of where they work, their level of income, or whether or not they have dependents.

Evidence shows that individuals with paid sick leave are more likely to access preventative services (i.e., visiting their primary care provider, going to the dentist, getting Pap smears, or influenza vaccines) when compared to those who do not have access to paid sick leave. Without paid sick leave and even with health insurance, people are more likely to skip prescription refills or delay necessary treatments.

But it’s likely not a choice anyone actually wants to make to forego any of these services, and it’s telling who has to make this “choice.” Those who do not have paid sick leave tend to be younger, low-income workers, part-time workers, and people—especially women—who are not white. Many don’t have the luxury to choose between a day’s wages (“Do I feed myself? Pay rent?”) or being able to take care of their health. Preventative services can promote health, but only if people have the time to access and use them before these problems compound into something extremely costly or potentially deadly.

Those who already have paid sick leave tend to be older, work high-income jobs, and have comprehensive health insurance. As a result they’re less likely to feel the pressure between deciding to take a day off to take care of their health or losing out on money. And they might not even realize that paid sick leave, which is currently determined by employers or the state one resides in, is not a guarantee.

A stepping stone for the invisible

The disparate effects of no federal paid sick leave policy showed during the pandemic. Some were able to transition to working virtually from the relative safety of their own homes, but many essential workers did not have the luxury to stay at home. Not only could they not afford to quit their jobs to reduce exposure, but many who got sick were unable to afford time off to recover from COVID-19.

Even as the pandemic eases, there are still disparities. Vaccination rates are lower among Black and Latino folks, who also make up a large number of essential workers. They report wanting to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but are unable to get time off to do so. President Joe Biden called for employers to give their workers time off to get vaccinated, but without a mandate it’s still up to employers to offer it.

A federal paid sick leave policy would allow workers to take time off to be vaccinated or recover from COVID-19 and other illnesses without fear of losing their job or pay—regardless of employer. This would protect the health of those recovering from illnesses and also help protect others by preventing the potential spread of illness by people who face the untenable choice of caring for their health or keeping their job.

Paid sick leave is essential to women’s health. It addresses those who hold up society but are often invisible. They are women and nonbinary folk, and especially those who either choose not to have children, or cannot bear the children they want. They are the women who care for family members in need at home after long days of caring for others in medical facilities. They are the women with no one to depend on but themselves, who still care for the needs of others by working hourly shifts at the grocery store or holding service industry jobs—deemed essential last year, but since forgotten.

A woman’s ability to take the time they need to care for their health should never come at the expense of lost income, nor depend on the income they make or the industry they work in.

Cecille Joan Avila (she/her), MPH, is a policy analyst at Boston University School of Public Health. A former photojournalist, she now writes about domestic health policy issues. Her areas of interest are in ethics, getting people to care about historically excluded populations, and sexual and reproductive health.

Prism is a BIPOC-led non-profit news outlet that centers the people, places, and issues currently underreported by national media. We’re committed to producing the kind of journalism that treats Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other invisibilized groups as the experts on our own lived experiences, our resilience, and our fights for justice. Sign up for our email list to get our stories in your inbox, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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News Roundup: Giuliani suspended; infrastructure deal; pro-Trump network floats mass executions

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From hoax-peddling to violent insurrection to talk of mass executions, fascism in America is now a major political force

In the news today: Trump fixer Rudy Giuliani’s license to practice law in New York is suspended after a pattern of flagrant lying about supposed election “fraud” in and outside courtrooms. The White House and a group of 10 senators announced an agreement on “bipartisan” infrastructure funding—but both the details and the supposed bipartisanship that will allow it to pass remain sketchy. A prominent conservative “news” site responsible for pushing election hoaxes that helped lead to insurrection is now speculating on a need to execute “tens of thousands” of Americans who, they falsely contend, helped unfairly deny Donald Trump an election win.

Here’s some of what you may have missed:


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‘Unforgivable and un-American’: U.S. Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick’s longtime partner calls out GOP

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In a CNN op-ed, Garza, a clinical social worker who was with Sicknick for 11 years, wrote that she couldn’t watch the Jan. 6 footage for a month after the attack, but eventually gutted it out and took a look.

But before his memorial a month later, something came over me: I wanted to see everything I could and understand what happened that day. As I watched the videos, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw officers being brutalized and beaten, and protesters defying orders to stay back from entering the Capitol. All the while, I kept thinking, “Where is the President? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive? Where is the cavalry!?”
 

As the months passed, my deep sadness turned to outright rage as I watched Republican members of Congress lie on TV and in remarks to reporters and constituents about what happened that day. Over and over they denied the monstrous acts committed by violent protesters.

Garza didn’t name those members of Congress, but they’re not hard to identify. There was Sen. Ron Johnson, who said he was never concerned about the insurrection because the rioters were “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement”—and not scary antifa or Black Lives Matter protesters. There was Rep. Andrew Clyde, who compared the insurrectionists to tourists, even though footage from that day showed him fixin’ to drop a chimichanga or two into his Simon Bar Sinister Underoos. And there was Trump himself, who infamously said that the insurrection posed “zero threat” and that his supporters were “hugging and kissing” the Capitol police. 

Eventually, Garza joined Sicknick’s mother, Gladys, in her campaign to convince GOP senators to vote in favor of the commission. But as we all know, their heartfelt pleas were ignored. Garza writes that during her and Gladys’ outreach campaign, “some Republican senators were very pleasant and polite. Others were dismissive, and others could barely hide their disdain.”

Sounds about right. Of course, in the wake of Republicans’ nearly unanimous betrayal of democracy, Garza feels she’s being retraumatized.

By denying or downplaying the viciousness and trauma that occurred on January 6, members of Congress and the people who continue echoing their false narrative are engaging in a specific kind of psychological harm that is familiar to people who work in mental health. It’s known as “secondary wounding.” Secondary wounding, described by psychologist Aphrodite Matsakis, occurs when people “minimize or discount the magnitude of the event, its meaning to the victim, [or] its impact on the victim’s life.”

The kicker? Before the Capitol insurrection, both Garza and Sicknick—who adored blueberry pancakes and wiener dogs alike—were Trump supporters. Not anymore: “To know that some members of Congress—along with the former President, Donald Trump, who Brian and I once supported but who can only now be viewed as the mastermind of that horrible attack—are not acknowledging Brian’s heroism that day is unforgivable and un-American.”

Eventually, anyone who puts their faith in Donald Trump gets burned. Ask … well, pretty much anyone. Most people don’t suffer this much for their obtuseness, but just about everyone who hitches their wagon to his collapsing star gets a rude awakening.

It’s sad that it took the loss of a loved one for Garza to finally wake up, but if she can keep warning others, maybe the day when Trump is truly—and forever—radioactive will come sooner rather than later.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.


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In blow to California farmworkers, Supreme Court rules against union access to grower property

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“On Wednesday, the court’s conservative supermajority held that California’s law violates the Fifth Amendment, which bars the taking of private property for public use ‘without just compensation,” he wrote. “Remarkably, the majority held that the law constitutes a ‘per se taking’—not a mere regulation, but an ‘appropriation” of property that flouts the owners’ ‘right to exclude.’”

“The court’s 6–3 decision in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid is thus a crushing blow to organized labor, which often relies on workplace access to safeguard workers’ rights,” he continued. “It also undermines the broader legal framework that permits the government to impose all manner of regulations on private property, including workplace safety laws and nondiscrimination requirements. With Cedar Point, the Supreme Court has handed business owners a loaded gun to aim at every regulation they oppose.”

Per The Times, the 1975 regulation allows unions “to meet with agricultural workers at work sites in the hour before and after work and during lunch breaks for as many as 120 days a year.” The Washington Post reports the regulation had been upheld by the California Supreme Court in 1976, with the U.S. Supreme Court that same year dismissing a continued challenge to the law, Stern said. According to The Post, “provisions have gone unchallenged until now,” when California-based Cedar Point Nursery, and Fowler Packing Co. challenged.

“In my view, the majority’s conclusion threatens to make many ordinary forms of regulation unusually complex or impractical,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent, joined by justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in Cedar Point v. ALRB makes a racist and broken farm labor system even more unequal,” United Farm Workers (UFW) said in a statement. “Farm workers are the hardest working people in America. This decision denies them the right to use their lunch breaks to freely discuss whether they want to have a union. The Supreme Court has failed to balance a farmer’s property rights with a farm worker’s human rights.”

In a tweet, Illinois Rep. Chuy García wrote that “[f]armworkers in California and across the country fought and died for their right to organize. It’s an embarrassment to our democracy that this extremist court is chipping away at that right.”

What’s next is unclear. Sterns writes California could compensate growers. “But how much would that cost? At oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett floated $50 per ‘taking’—a charge that would quickly balloon as every California agribusiness demanded payment each time a union organizer stepped on their property,” he wrote. Victoria Hassid, chair of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board, told The Post it will keep looking into “alternative avenues” to make sure farmworkers are not deprived of their rights.


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