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Advocates Push For Mandatory Paid Sick Days In Virginia

Kim Bobo with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy said paid sick leave improves employee retention and public health.
Kim Bobo with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy said paid sick leave improves employee retention and public health.   (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM)

The state’s largest faith-based advocacy group launched a campaign to make paid sick days mandatory in Virginia.

The group says while national studies rank Virginia the number one state in the nation for business, just last month, anti-poverty group Oxfam America called Virginia the worst state in the nation for worker’s rights.

Ten states and Washington D.C. currently require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave and advocates say Virginia should follow suit.

Thomas Calhoun, President of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers said in his 17 years as a teacher he learned to keep a steady supply of tissues at his desk for sick students who couldn’t stay home.

“Students who come to school sick, have to stay at school sick because the parent cannot stay home and cannot leave work to come get them because they just don’t have paid time off,” Calhoun said during a press conference Thursday.

Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy has made paid sick days it’s top legislative priority this year.

“Every parent and every worker need paid sick days,” Bobo said. “Which is why 145 nations guarantee paid sick days. We don’t yet have a standard in the United States.”

Bobo says 1.2 million workers in Virginia have no paid sick days.

Democratic State Senator Barbara Favola is introducing a bill to require private employers with six employees or more to grant full-time workers at least five sick days per year.

“This in my mind makes common sense,” She said. “It’s a public health issue.” 

Favola said most employees without paid sick leave are low-income wage earners who are forced to go to work when they are sick or lose pay.

Democrats have tried for at least two years to pass mandatory paid sick leave. But they’ve yet to find support across the political aisle. Republicans say it’s an excessive burden on businesses.