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Mass. bishops back earned sick time ballot measure

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BRAINTREE -- Bishops of the four Catholic Dioceses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts urged a "Yes" vote on Question 4 in a statement, Oct. 16, bearing the signatures of Boston Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Bishop of Worcester Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Springfield Mitchell T. Rozanski, and Bishop of Fall River Edgar M. da Cunha.

If passed into law, the ballot question would make earned sick time a requirement for Massachusetts employers.

The bishops quoted Pope Francis from his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that "it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives."

"The social teaching of the Catholic Church has long been clear on the essential nature of work for the maintenance of the dignity of the human person," the bishops said. "It is this teaching that informs our opinion and endorsement of Question 4 today. In March of this year we endorsed the right of the worker to a fair wage, and we wish to continue to reaffirm Catholic teaching regarding the importance of work, family, and the fundamental dignity of all persons."

A "yes" vote on Question 4 would give workers in Massachusetts the ability to earn up to 40 hours of earned sick time per year to take care of their own health or the health of a family member. Under the proposed law, employers with 11 or more employees would be required to provide paid sick leave to their employees, while employers with less than 11 employees would be required to provide unpaid sick leave.

Currently, California and Connecticut mandate earned sick time.

The bishops said employees working jobs without such coverage often face a choice between going to work sick or losing a day's pay, which could threaten their employment.

"Tragically, many are forced to send a sick child to school to save their income or their job. These are the same individuals who earn the least amount and struggle to provide the basic needs for themselves and their families," the bishops said.

The bishops said requiring earned sick time contributes to the dignity of every worker, a stated belief on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Low-wage workers, those that are most vulnerable, deserve the security of knowing that their work will result in providing for their means and the means of their families without the fear of job loss. This proposal is reasonable and fair. It will allow workers to stay home when they or their family members are ill, keeping our workers, families, and workplaces healthy. We urge the citizens of Massachusetts to vote 'Yes' on Ballot Question 4," the bishops concluded.

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