The Need for Paid Sick Leave for ALL workers in Nebraska

This is a guest post by Miriam Nieto Lopez, Nebraska Appleseed intern in 2023

The path that led me to interning at Nebraska Appleseed was shaped by experiences in my childhood. As an Economic Justice intern, I’ve spent most of my time working to get paid sick leave for Nebraskans. The absence of paid sick leave informed some of those childhood experiences that fuels my passion for justice today.  

At the age of six, my mother, brother, and I immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Despite her nursing background, my mother faced challenges in maintaining her career in the US, and she had to settle for jobs with no educational requirements, such as meat packing and housekeeping. As a result, I vividly remember growing up with my mother constantly working, leaving me to take care of my brother and myself. 

Throughout the years, my mother endured severe injuries and illnesses, yet she always hurried back to work due to our financial needs. I recall one instance when she suffered from bronchitis, but her employer expected her to continue working despite a doctor’s note recommending rest. This refusal to grant her time off exacerbated her health issues, and her lungs have never been the same since. I hold her employer responsible for this hardship. 

The Paid Sick Leave Ballot Initiative would ensure that every worker has the ability to accrue paid sick leave and would protect them from being penalized if they use it. This policy would have helped my mother get care and rest when she needed it, which would have benefited her health in the long-term, too. 

There are other key ways that paid sick leave is good for our communities: 

1. Health and Well-being

Paid sick leave is not just about avoiding the spread of contagious illnesses; it is also a matter of personal and family health and well-being. Without this benefit, employees are more likely to work while sick, which can worsen their condition and increase the likelihood of spreading infections to those they come into contact with. Having paid sick leave ensures that employees can take the necessary time off to recover fully or take care of a sick family member, fostering a healthier and more productive workforce. 

2. Reduced Absenteeism

Providing paid sick leave can reduce absenteeism in the workplace. When employees have the assurance of being able to take time off without financial repercussions, they are more likely to use their sick days wisely and prevent prolonged illnesses that could result from pushing themselves to work while unwell. This leads to increased productivity and a more engaged workforce overall.

3. Improved Employee Morale

A lack of paid sick leave can cause significant stress and anxiety for employees and their families, knowing they may face financial strain if they need to miss work due to illness. On the other hand, when employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be motivated, loyal, and dedicated to their jobs. A positive work environment and high employee morale can make all the difference in retaining and attracting employees. 

During my time at Appleseed, I had the opportunity to engage with a number of people. I was able to connect with other advocates across the state, learning and sharing about our encounters with paid sick leave, or the lack of it. One advocate, Mandy Berlin Coyle, shared with me, “Unless we lift up one another we will continue to be trampled by the immorally wealthy.”  When we all lift together, the burden on each individual is lighter. I hope you feel motivated to take action with us. 

Ways to Take Action

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