This week, President Obama used Labor Day to shine the spotlight on a serious labor issue: paid sick days. Specifically, he signed an executive order granting federal contract workers the right to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. That order will cover 300,000 federal workers who didn’t previously have access to paid sick days, starting in 2017.

This executive order signifies an important step forward on an issue that the President started vocally championing in his 2015 State of the Union Address.

“We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers…And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick child at home.” - President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 2015

When the executive order goes into effect federal contract workers can start earning on hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Workers can use this sick time to care for themselves or seek medical care; to care for a family member (defined as a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or “other loved one”); or to take an absence resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Unfortunately, these 300,000 workers are a tiny fraction of the nearly 44 million Americans working in the private sector who lack paid sick days. (1.2 million of those Americans live and work in North Carolina.)

As an upcoming Think NC First report will detail, a lack of paid sick days access doesn’t affect all workers in the same degree. As you move down the income ladder, paid sick days access becomes scarcer, which puts an undue economic burden on low-wage working families.

Following the President’s lead on this issue and passing paid sick days legislation would alleviate unfair economic pressure on working families, and signal to job creators and job seekers that North Carolina is a good place to work and do business. So not only does it make economic sense – it’s also the right thing to do.