Fisher, Van Duyn rally for expansion of paid sick leave

Supporters of paid time off for hourly workers attended a rally on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Buncombe County-based Democratic legislators Senator Terry Van Duyn and Representative Susan Fisher spoke at the event and plan on introducing legislation to address the issue. Photo by Dan Hesse

A pair of Buncombe County-based Democratic legislators are working to mandate, and raise awareness for, paid leave for hourly workers. Representative Susan Fisher and state Senator Terry Van Duyn voiced concerns about the issue during a rally at Pritchard Park on Tuesday, Sept. 6. About 40 people listened as various speakers advocated for statewide legislation to mandate paid sick days.

The North Carolina Justice Center, a low-wage advocacy organization, claims more than one million North Carolina workers do not have access to paid sick leave, stating that those workers comprise 39 percent of the private-sector workforce.

According to North Carolina labor law, “An employer is not required by law to give mandatory wage benefits such as vacation pay, sick leave, jury duty pay and holiday pay to its employees regardless of how many hours a week they work.”

Before the rally, Fisher told Xpress she plans to introduce a bill that would mandate upward of seven days of paid leave days for employees, based on the size of their employer. “We’ve had Family Medical Leave Act for 20 plus years, and still workers have not seen a move toward paid leave at all,” she said. The Family Medical Leave Act is federal legislation that gives workers the right for unpaid time away from their job due to various medical reasons.

Fisher said many people face pressure to work while under the weather, creating unfair choices. “In many professions, especially the service industry, if you don’t show up you don’t get paid. If you’re sick, and legitimately unable to work, you’re choosing between taking care of yourself, or a sick family member, or losing a day of pay,” she said.

About 40 people attended a rally in Pritchard Park aimed at raising awareness about paid time off for hourly workers.
About 40 people attended a rally in Pritchard Park aimed at raising awareness about paid time off for hourly workers.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of Campaign for Southern Equality and presumptive winner of District 1 of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, says other states have had success with addressing paid leave for hourly workers. “We’ve seen states like New York roll out some comprehensive paid leave policies. And that sets the tone for what is possible across the state, especially when you’re in a state where local powers are restricted,” she said.

“This is also something that local municipalities can do. Greensboro has done it recently by adopting more extensive paid leave policy. And certainly individual employers can,” Beach-Ferrara noted.

Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics of Western North Carolina, said North Carolina is “behind on a lot of worker-friendly legislation and policies.” She, too, believes other states have had success with mandating paid time off for hourly workers, but said she’s hopeful that legislators and “responsible” business owners will help build momentum for the issue.

Meantime, Van Duyn said the economy is largely fueled by hourly-employees. “Our economy is based on the spending ability of workers. We will not sustain this recovery if we don’t start paying people what they deserve. If you work for a living you should be able to raise your family without worrying if you get sick,” she said.

Fisher also believes providing paid time off will bolster spending and morale. “What we’ve found is it does not hurt the economy, it helps the economy. It keeps children well, keeps day cares open, spreads less infection and makes for a more productive workforce,” she said.

In 2015 Fisher introduced the Healthy Families and Sick Days bill, but it did not make it out of committee. The General Assembly convenes for its long session in January.


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at

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16 thoughts on “Fisher, Van Duyn rally for expansion of paid sick leave

  1. “In 2015 Fisher introduced the Healthy Families and Sick Days bill, but it did not make it out of committee.”

    Here’s a better link to the failed bill showing that it suffered from SIDS:

    Filed: 3/17.
    Died: 3/18.

    “The General Assembly convenes for its long session in January.”

    Is this closing line supposed to imply that the failed bill has a chance in the next session? Did the author not think to check Fisher’s record of getting bills through?

    • bsummers

      What’s your point? That the GOP majority in the House will vindictively spike any bill introduced by the deputy Democratic leader, no matter what the merits? Wow, that’s some powerful insight.

    • bsummers

      Did the author not think to check Fisher’s record of getting bills through?

      Ah, that’s your point. That the XPress isn’t doing their job right if they’re not mocking Democrats.

          • Peter Robbins

            There wasn’t really any point. More of a trip down memory lane. Nearly as satisfying as that wonderful moment when the Republicans rescued all those working poor from dependence on an expanded Medicaid program. I can’t believe how in this day and age some people still think they should be rewarded for getting sick.

  2. HRH

    So did NO media cover this duo’s ‘townhall’ at the Craft center last Monday August 29 ? HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE ? ? ?

    NONE probably! NO PRESS coverage of their all important meeting ! roflmao…these two screech owls are such ‘crackkks…

  3. I heard from Tim Peck that Barry Summers tried and failed to establish a global TV network. His GoFundMe didn’t raise the necessary $4 billion. Peck thinks it’s because Summers insisted that comments on the prospective network’s Web site would all have to be germane to the topic at hand and grounded in fact. Peck did not approve.

  4. Norman Bossert

    There is nothing unreasonable about servers having an opportunity to be able to use sick leave without fear of losing a job. Servers are actually like a lot of the rest of us … they get ill, their children get ill. The difference is that in most jobs employers understand that and work with employees knowing that we all benefit when servers are not working ill, when their children don’t have to be sent to school ill. Social justice demands that we remember that we all have a place at the table and all need the security of work and the confidence that we can care for our families without fear of retribution.

    • boatrocker

      You’re fired!

      America’s response.
      We like our 3 day long Labor Day weekend but the moment an American worker stands up for his rights,
      he is called a commie.

      Those labor laws are the only reason the wacky far right’s children can go to school instead of working in a factory for 14 hrs a day at age 7 and not lose a hand to an industrial device that has never been inspected. The kid would of course be fired for daring to be hurt on the job.

  5. HRH

    So these two and Mayor held a press conference yesterday relative to the trump visit…so WHERE is it ? anyone know why their meetings are such a BIG secret ? Hitleryesque for shur …

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