Voters Want Sick Pay

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An increase in the minimum wage is not the only workers' rights issue that voters at the local level are taking into their own hands. The right to paid sick leave also won approval in several local elections on Tuesday.

In Oakland, California, voters approved a measure requiring private employers to pay for sick days. That is in addition to a referendum question that will bring the minimum wage in the city to $12.25 an hour.

[Voters in five states approved minimum wage increases. For details, see Minimum Wage Raise Sweeps States.]

Massachusetts voters approved a mandate for paid sick days by a margin of 60 percent, according to an early tally. It is only the third state in the nation, after California and Connecticut, to pass a statewide law mandating pay for sick leave.

In New Jersey, residents of the city of Trenton approved a local mandate for sick leave. And, the municipality of Montclair passed a similar measure, with nearly 75 percent of voters approving, according to an early unofficial count by local news site That makes a total of eight municipalities in New Jersey to require private employers to pay sick leave.

The victories were hailed by MomsRising,org, an advocacy group, which says that altogether the votes will make sick day pay available to about one million additional American workers.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising, noted that the victories for sick leave rights, and the minimum wage increases, won broad approval in both Republican and Democratic strongholds. "Our elected officials would be wise to listen to their constituents in both red states and blue states and come together to make these public policy goals a reality for all," she said in a statement.
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