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There’s no such thing as Paid Sick Leave

Excited for not working for 14 days? Not so fast!

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 16, 2020

The Covid-19 scare is the talk of the town. It’s dominating everything. In New York, schools are closed for at least 2 weeks. On Sunday in Italy, 358 people died. Everything is canceled, our supermarkets are empty like the Soviet Union during the Cold War. No school, no bars, no baseball, nothing for 2 whole weeks! There has to be a plus to all of this?

Well, there are a few things. One, most of us still have our health. Unless we start running around licking windows and eating crayons, we should be able to weather this storm. Two, if you’re a child, no school for 2 weeks is awesome. To battle-weary parents, not so much but everyone is in the same pickle.

Another positive with the hysteria surrounding coronavirus is that the Paid Sick Leave debate is relevant, and this time, people are finally starting to listen. Did you know that the United States has no federal standard for earned paid sick leave? On earth, 163 other countries have laws that guarantee paid sick leave. In the United States, an employer can dock pay or fire a sick worker for staying home to recover. Employees without paid sick days perform so many jobs that affect our daily lives; Restaurants, public transportation, supermarkets, daycare, letter carriers, and healthcare professionals just to name a few.

According to the AFL-CIO, 40% of working people lack even one paid sick day. This means people work while sick for fear of losing pay or their jobs. When you have access to paid sick days, it makes everyone healthier and more productive.

No one wants to eat food prepared or served by someone who is sick. Paid sick days are common sense. Numbers don’t lie. 23% of working adults say they have lost a job or been threatened with job loss for taking time from work when they or a family member were sick. If our country had a paid sick leave policy, our economy would be $160 billion more productive.

Workforces with a union deal have negotiated paid sick time. This time varies per contract and industry. The mandated 2 weeks off from school in New York will be easier for union households to handle than the non-union, but everyone is going to have to share in the pain with this one. Forcing workers to work sick poses a public health risk. Our countries inability to enact earned paid sick leave threatens the economic security of the entire nation. A minimum standard for earned paid sick days will increase protection for working people and inevitably strengthen our economy.

Congress and Trump are currently in “talks” about a federal funding package to address the Covid-19 pandemic with a paid sick leave policy and funding for those affected by Covid-19.  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2020-2021 Budget has a Paid Sick Leave Policy currently being considered.

But the State’s can not fund paid sick leave on their own. Every state in the union, both blue and red, are begging Washington for some leadership on this expensive yet doable issue. Unfortunately, leadership in D.C. doesn’t exist. The White House has been broken for 3 years and it isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. Pandemic or not, we are on our own.

Like most good fights, this Paid Sick Leave fight is worth our attention. It will become a debatable issue going into the upcoming Presidential election and right now I have no direction for you. There’s no active campaign to force the issue on Congress and Trump. You could call your House Rep. or U.S. Senator, but you will probably just be fed a line. The imminent issue is this - tens of thousands of Americans could quite possibly not live long enough to vote for the next President this November because of Covid-19. Enacting Paid Sick Leave literally is now a matter of life and death.

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