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If you're sick, stay home.  That's not just commonsense, it's advice public health officials dealing with Swine Flu and other infectious diseases give everyday. But for half the people reading this column, staying home might not be an option.

A shocking new report released last Thursday by the Community Service Society and A Better Balance shows that nearly half of all working New Yorkers (as many as 1.85 million people) - have no paid sick leave on the job.  At least 1.3 million New Yorkers have no paid time off whatsoever (no vacation, no personal days).

For them, every cold or flu means having to choose between losing out on the paycheck they need to get by, or putting their health at risk (not to mention the health of their co-workers).

What's worse, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction.  According to the report, 69% of "near-poor" workers - those earning just above the federal poverty line - had paid sick days in 2004.  Today, just 33% of near-poor workers report being able to take a paid day off work when they get sick.

Finding a job in this recession is tough enough.  Sick in the City shows that finding one that offers decent benefits is a lot harder.

What's life like without paid sick days?  Just ask Guillermo Barrero.  A father of two, Barrero was fired from his job as a cook at a restaurant in Bushwick after feeling ill for days and telling his boss he needed to go to the hospital. According to his account in the Daily News, his boss told him:

"You don't care about your job - if you leave now, don't come back," ... Barrero left work and spent three days in the hospital.

Guillermo's story might be especially bad, but ever since the Working Families Party joined with a growing coalition fighting to make paid sick days a citywide workplace standard, we've heard from hundreds of people who've been disciplined or fired for getting sick, got behind on their bills after an illness, or agonized over sending a sick child to school because they couldn't afford to stay home.

Sick in the City also suggests that the lack of paid sick days may even contribute to our broken healthcare system.  Nearly a quarter of those without paid sick days reported going to the emergency room because they couldn't afford to take time off for a doctor's appointment-including those who had health insurance.

No one should have to worry that they cannot afford to get sick. But the Sick in the City report shows that in today's economy, life without paid sick days is an epidemic.

Originally posted to Charles Lenchner WFP on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 05:23 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Pluto's diary (4+ / 0-)

    a couple of days ago had a chart pointing out that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation with no legally mandated paid leave for workers.

    We need change, not just in NYC, but nationwide.  

    The best tribute to Senator Kennedy would be real healthcare reform bearing his name.

    by puzzled on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 05:30:35 AM PDT

  •  I wonder what the figures would look like? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I wonder what it would look like if you included all the people with two weeks of so-called "PTO" per year to use for personal illness, vacation, sick kids, elder care, etc.? Many people come in sick because they don't want to lose their vacations, worry about what to do if their kids get sick, etc.

    These plans were substituted for separate sick and vacation banks over the years, supposedly as a "benefit." How does losing a week (or two) of paid sick leave when these plans go into place work in anyone's favor besides the employer's? It's such a scam.

    Employers need to get a clue - You can't simultaneously hire for intelligence and then insult them with stuff like this. They'll figure it out very quickly.

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success."

    by QuestionAuthority on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 05:40:31 AM PDT

  •  It's insane (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rockhound, brooklynbadboy

    That a restaurant owner would rather have their COOK work SICK than pay him to stay home for a day or two. I mean, that's just what you need, a sick person handling food then giving it to paying customers.

    I just came off a nasty cold. I went to work one day early and it made it a lot harder to fight off. Not to mention, that one day at work was just miserable. I couldn't think straight, I couldn't really do my work, it was just a waste of time. And I work in an office.

    The fact that this country doesn't have mandated sick days is mind-boggling. It's exactly the sort of thing everyone should get behind - especially all those "compassionate conservatives"!

  •  In the age of permatemps, not a shock at all. (0+ / 0-)

    Between the service workers and contractors etc etc I'm surprised 50% do have sick days.

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 07:20:02 AM PDT

  •  And then, of course, there are the (0+ / 0-)

    self-employed, such as yours truly. I pay into the French system, so at least in theory I can get paid some kind of benefit if I get too sick to work, but I suspect there's a minimum number of days or amount of loss or something before the benefit kicks in. (I really have to  find out what the deal is... just as information. I hope never to have to act on it!)

    Fortunately, as a self-employed person whose clients are at a distance, I do have some flexibility, so if I feel too awful on, say, Monday to get anything done, I can make up the time either by working longer hours over the next several days or by working on the weekend. My contracts are generally 20-22 workdays/month, so there's leeway. Plus my clients are more interested in whether I meet their deadlines, and they are not especially interested in how I manage to do so (i.e., how many hours/day I work), so long as I do so.

    I just worry on occasion what would happen if I really got hit hard with the flu or somesuch. I don't think I'd lose my clients, but I most certainly would not be able to bill them for the work I could not get done.

    It is absolutely revolting to me to think of how American corporations and businesses are screwing over so many hardworking people. Seems to me it's past time for such people to band together and start revolting, quite literally.

    Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

    by mofembot on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 07:59:33 AM PDT

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