This flu virus will make you miserable. But it's policymakers who make you go to work with the flu.
Apparently a major flu outbreak is what it takes to get some attention on the plight of the 40 million American workers who lack paid sick leave
. Granted, the attention is more on the public health risks involved when people are forced to choose between staying home when they're sick and paying their bills and less on how much it sucks to have to make that choice, but it's progress. And the facts are compelling:
Employees without sick days are more likely to go to work with a contagious illness, send an ill child to school or day care and use hospital emergency rooms for care, according to a 2010 survey by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that a lack of sick time helped spread 5 million cases of flu-like illness during the 2009 swine flu outbreak.
Meanwhile, in the United States, only Connecticut, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle have mandatory paid sick leave. A sick leave bill remains stalled in New York City because Council Speaker Christine Quinn won't allow it to come to a vote—even though it has the votes needed to pass and widespread public support
. Quinn is making all the usual noises a Democrat afraid to piss off business owners makes about how it would be a burden on small businesses in a difficult economy, but
, Columbia University sociologist Shamus Khan writes:
[...] after the city of San Francisco passed a paid-sick-leave bill, it had higher rates of employment compared with its neighboring cities without such a policy. Paid sick leave works. Employees are not only likely to use it, helping stem the spread of disease, they’re also more likely to use preventative-health-care services. The Center for American Progress estimates that universal sick leave could reduce emergency-room visits by 1.3 million per year, saving the U.S. over a billion dollars in medical costs.
Every politician who opposes paid sick leave should first have to eat all their meals in restaurants staffed by cooks and waiters who have the flu, then be required not only to go to work sick but to get to the gym for a solid workout a couple times during the day to better understand what it's like to be a waiter or a cook working with the flu.