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Take Action: Tell the Portland City Council to allow workers to earn paid sick days

For nearly a year, Ariel Kempf was a server at a very busy breakfast and lunch café in Portland when, one day, while playing with her dog on the beach, she tore several tendons in her right leg. She had no health insurance, so she went to an urgent-care clinic where she was told she couldn’t put pressure on her leg for at least ten days and that it might take up to six weeks to heal. She had no sick days.

Without delay, she called her coworkers who agreed to cover her next few shifts. She hoped to return in a week or so. But when the busy weekend came around and nobody was available to cover her shifts, her boss told her to come in and prove that she was “really injured.”

“He suggested I was lying,” Kempf, 35, said.  “I was in disbelief. I had no health benefits or insurance from this job. So I had a $100 doctor’s note and no money coming in and I was still asked to prove to my boss that I had a valid injury. It was insulting.”

Not long after, Kempf joined Working America, which is part of a larger effort in Portland working to pass an earned sick days ordinance.  The proposal allows workers to earn one hour worth of sick time for every 30 hours worked – for no more than five days per year. Kempf is one of 3,000 people who have signed personal letters appealing to the Portland city council to pass the ordinance.

About 40 percent of private-sector workers in Portland and 80 percent of low-income workers nationally can’t earn a single day of paid sick leave.

“In the food service industry, you’re really expected to come to work sick - to be there no matter what,” she said. “If people had options I think it would relieve that tension and be better for all involved.”

“I joined this effort so that others don’t have to endure this type of treatment. Really, if I had been able to use sick days without these abusive repercussions, it would have been much easier to heal.”

The lack of earned sick days doesn’t just affect those in the food service industry; it also prevents parents from caring for their sick children, adding economic and personal stress to low-income families.

It’s been six months and Kempf is now back on her feet - literally and figuratively. She is in the process of starting her own business and works part-time to keep the bills paid.

“If there’s one thing I know it’s that everybody gets sick and everybody deserves time to heal,” she said.

by Tara Murphy - Reposted from Working America's Main Street Blog

Originally posted to Working America on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:42 AM PST.

Also republished by Koscadia, PDX Metro, Income Inequality Kos, and Occupy Wall Street.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll tip and rec this diary. (3+ / 0-)

    For reasons I won't discuss right now, this is a very topical issue.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:58:58 AM PST

  •  actually a lack of sick leave costs businesses (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Catte Nappe, mrkvica, FloridaSNMOM

    because workers come in when they would ordinarily stay home sick.  Sick workers are not as efficient, and do not do their job anywhere near their usual efficiency.  In addition, in cases of the flu and other infectious diseases, one sick worker can infect an entire work force and even your customers.  Do you want to be served by someone coughing and sneezing?  Having sick workers on the job can cost you patrons.

    There is the old sneeze (pun intended) about abusing sick days and using them for vacation but, most workers hoard their sick leave against the slings and arrows of employment.  A few are foolish enough to always use their sick leave frivolously but only a few.  Very few want to go to the hassle and cost of getting a doc's excuse just to get to lay out for a day

    •  Typhoid Mary 2013 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      In addition, in cases of the flu and other infectious diseases, one sick worker can infect an entire work force and even your customers.  Do you want to be served by someone coughing and sneezing?

      261.A wealthy man can afford anything except a conscience. -Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

      by MaikeH on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:49:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not in the food sevice industry... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snoopydawg, Working America, mrkvica

    but I sure can relate.

    “In the food service industry, you’re really expected to come to work sick - to be there no matter what,” she said.
    I tore both the MCL and ACL ligaments in my right knee more than 10 years ago. I had neither healthcare nor sick days at the time so surgery was out of the question. I had to take more than a month off work (which ultimately got me fired) in order to allow the ligaments to heal just enough so I could put weight on my knee and walk again without crutches and subsequently go back to work -- albeit in a completely different field of work -- due to the fact that I could no longer go through the everyday motions of my prior job.

    (I wasn't eligible for workers' compensation due to the fact that the injury occurred during a tug-of-war contest at the company picnic)

    I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that all workers should have both decent [affordable] healthcare and paid sick days and leave when necessary.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." ~ Aldous Huxley

    by markthshark on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:34:10 AM PST

  •  This is just incredibly sick. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snoopydawg, mrkvica, FloridaSNMOM

    I'm sitting here, horrified, while I always knew this was possible in the US. Sick leave here in Belgium is paid, always. Your doctor gives you a note and that's it. If you're a civil servant and you're sick for more than a couple of weeks and/or they suspect foul play they may randomly send their own doctor to the person's residence to check up on their condition. But that rarely happens.

    This is mind-bogglingly inhumane. I'm struggling with  chronic nerve pain (undergoing treatment right now, it should finally disappear in a couple of months) and can't imagine having to do such harsh labor with it. I know the issue of people thinking you might be exaggerating or lying, though. I've always had extreme migraines and teachers in high school seemed to be unable to understand that this was something a person could suffer from and as such sometimes they couldn't come to class because of it. Poor woman, I feel for her - but it's awesome she's become a real activist. I would sign the petition but I don't live in the US. If a White House petition for this pops up I'll be able to sign though.

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