Why Maine workers need paid time off

By Rep. Scott Cuddy | May 14, 2019

According to a report by the U.S. Federal Reserve, over one-fifth of adults are unable to pay all of their current month’s bills, and more than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 because they were unable to afford the cost.

When you are barely making ends meet, saving money can be nearly impossible. Less than two-fifths of non-retired adults think that their retirement savings are on track, and one-fourth have no retirement savings or pension whatsoever. In the short term, if you are a Mainer working without benefits, a lack of savings means that you can’t even call out from work in an emergency without falling behind on your bills.

For most of us living in rural Maine, these statistics are not surprising. We live the reality of financial stress every day. Based on my hundreds of conversations with people in Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and my hometown of Winterport, I know firsthand how common it is for people in our area to be walking on a financial tightrope, despite being some of the hardest-working people I know.

We all have friends, relatives and neighbors who, despite working full-time or multiple part-time jobs, are still unable to put aside any savings. This is not their fault. As we all know, life has become very expensive, especially due to high property taxes and unbelievably high medical costs. Despite these rising expenses, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center report, wages have barely budged in decades (after accounting for inflation).

As a state, we have to take proactive steps to strengthen our economy to bring more people the financial security they need. I am fortunate to be serving on the Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee, where we are tasked with reviewing dozens of bills focused on improving worker compensation and benefits. One of these bills, LD 369, An Act To Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Earned Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees, is a major step in the right direction. If passed into law, this bill would establish that employers with more than 10 employees must permit each employee to earn paid leave.

Many of our neighbors living paycheck-to-paycheck do not receive paid time off from their employers. This means that folks cannot stay home for a day to battle a flu without losing a day’s salary. It also means that they are unable take time off to visit a sick parent in the hospital or stay home to care for a young child without putting their family’s finances at risk.

Emergencies happen all the time. Family members fall ill, cars break down and childcare falls through. Raising two sons in a family that has experienced its share of medical emergencies, I know from experience that taking time off is often unavoidable, no matter how dedicated you are to your work.

I believe that if you are working a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs, you ought to be able to take a modest number of days off every year without the risk of financial hardship. I am proud to have worked on LD 369, a bill that will ensure just that, and to have reached a consensus that the majority of both parties on the Labor and Housing Committee support.

LD 369 grants people the financial security they need to call out of work in emergencies without worrying about cuts in their paycheck. It will benefit thousands of people, and it’s what our hardworking Mainers deserve.

Rep. Scott Cuddy is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives. A lifelong Winterport resident, Cuddy serves on the Regional School Unit 22 Board of Directors, and formerly served on the boards of Northeast Workforce Development and Maine Center for Economic Policy. Scott.Cuddy@legislature.maine.gov.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 19, 2019 04:34

Back in the day, you could earn ST Disability time that would accrue X number of hours for every month worked. So working 12 months could get you 3 days plus any accrued sick days that you may have. Employers need to care about the employees and they will reciprocate with loyalty and hard work. Unfortunately, too many employers look at employees as expendable until they have to replace them and absorb training costs, lost productivity and costly mistakes made.



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