Monday, August 24, 2009

Duh, employers. Let sick workers stay home

by Katie Bethell

The Centers for Disease Control released Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers, which includes recommendations from the CDC, and a letter cosigned by the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

Their advice? Plan ahead and “encourage sick workers to stay home without penalty,”. You’d think this would go without saying, right? What employer would want someone with the swine flu to show up at work? As it turns out, lots of them.

Today, nearly 1/2 of the workforce doesn’t have paid sick days. And, to make matters worse, the people who are most likely to interact with the public, like restaurant employees, hotel staff, and home health providers are the least likely to have paid sick days (roughly 74% have no paid sick days at all). When illness strikes, people without paid sick days have a tough choice: go to work sick and put their own health and their coworkers at risk, or stay home to recover and lose pay and (maybe even their jobs).

The CDC does right to tell employers that by not having paid sick days, they are putting both their businesses and public health at risk. Commerce Secretary Locke says it himself: “If an employee stays home sick, it’s not only the best thing for that employee’s health, but also his co-workers and the productivity of the company.”

But these leaders don’t go far enough. The CDC and the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Labor should publicly support the Healthy Families Act (H.R.2460/S.1152). This bill, introduced in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and in the Senate by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, simply ensures that employers allow all workers to earn a minimum of 7 paid sick days per year.

Without a law in place that sets a standard for earning paid sick days, we will never achieve the kind of economic and public health safety net that we need to combat issues like the H1N1 virus. We’ve encountered flu pandemics before, and we certainly will again, but businesses have not, on their own, adopted paid sick days policies despite the clear case for their benefit to businesses and the public alike.

It’s not rocket science. The simple standard proposed by the Healthy Families Act is necessary for addressing this, and future, public health and economic needs. It’s time for our leaders to speak out, and help bring our laws up to speed with common-sense public health practices.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Real Abuse - The Need for Paid Sick and Safe Days

This week, I met with an amazing woman. Her name is Bobbi and she lives in Milwaukee.

Bobbi has had a run of bad luck... to say the least.

The day Bobbi's son was born (pre-maturely at that), the insurance company cut her off. Left with heaps of hospital bills and bad credit, Bobbi came to be economically dependent on her boyfriend. After some time, this man became increasingly jealous and abusive. Bobbi and her son was trying to leave him, but this man snapped so badly, leaving the house shot up and Bobbi's jaw broken with plenty of matching body bruises.

Bobbi lost her job because she missed days of work while in the hospital, getting a restraining order, and relocating. Bobbi lost her job because she has no paid safe days.

Unfortunately, Judge Cooper could not see the connection between protecting victims of domestic violence like Bobbi, and protecting one's welfare, health, and safety. He ruled the Milwaukee Paid Sick Days Ordinance down because of the domestic violence protections in the ordinance.

Try finding a new job with your jaw wired shut.

Bobbi has a few things: She has a part time job in health care, huge health care bills, bad credit, nightmares, threatening letters, and a healthy 10 year old boy (she can't live with). Bobbi is still without any access to paid sick or safe days to protect her job if she gets sick, her son gets sick, or her ex gets out of jail.

You want to talk about high business costs and abuse of paid sick days?

Bobbi has experienced the high costs of NOT implementing Paid Sick Days in Milwaukee and REAL ABUSE.

The City must appeal the Judge's narrow and flawed ruling today... for Bobbi and other victims of DV who can't be beaten again.

If you want to help Bobbi take her boards to be a certified nurse, contact me: