by James Jimenez, Albuquerque Journal
September 21, 2017

No one should have to choose between their paycheck and taking time to recover from an illness or care for a sick child. But that is the reality for nearly half of New Mexico’s workforce. New Mexico has the highest rate of private-sector workers without earned sick leave in the U.S. – which, itself, is the only wealthy nation without policies to ensure that every worker can earn paid leave.

Several cities and a handful of states have enacted their own policies, and voters in Albuquerque have the option of enacting a similar policy when they cast their ballot in the current election.

The vast majority of the workers in New Mexico who cannot earn sick leave are already earning the lowest wages. Since they cannot afford to lose pay, they often have to go to work when they are sick and send their kids to school sick. This puts the public’s health at risk when the illness is easily communicable – particularly when those workers are handling food or working with customers in person. That drives up health care costs. That’s why when every worker can earn sick leave, the whole community benefits.

While providing workers with earned sick leave does come with a cost to the employer, the policy also saves money as it increases productivity and decreases turnover. The Healthy Workforce Ordinance that Albuquerque voters will soon decide will give our businesses an edge in attracting the best workers from cities and states that do not have similar provisions to help their workforce – and their communities – stay healthy.

Albuquerque voters should pass it.

James Jimenez is the Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children.