When the Swine Flu outbreak hit New York City, public health officials and
even President Obama told us to stay home if we felt sick.
It’s sound advice for preventing the spread of germs, but
for the more than one million New Yorkers who do not have a single day of paid
sick leave where they work, staying home may not be an option.
Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg briefed city officials on
important Swine Flu prevention measures.
Here’s another: making paid sick days a basic workplace standard for all
It’s simple: if you can’t afford to go to stay home when you
get sick, you end up putting yourself and others at risk. As Victor W. Sidel,
MD, a distinguished public health expert put it in a statement today:
“Going to work sick is not good for you, your co-workers, or
anyone else you come into contact with during the workday. Unfortunately, more than one million people in
New York City
do not have paid sick days where they work. As we prepare for a return of H1N1,
making sure people who are sick can stay home and rest when they need to should
be a top priority.”
New York City would not be
the first to guarantee paid sick days for everyone in its borders (San Francisco, Milwaukee, and
Washington, DC have already passed paid sick days laws),
but it might be the city with the most to gain.
Nearly two-thirds of low-wage workers in New York City have no paid sick days - and
many of them work in the places where disease is most likely to spread. A
survey of restaurant workers by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York
found that 84% don't have paid sick days, and a majority report coming to work
Everyday, all around us - in the subway, in fast food
restaurants, in beauty shops and grocery stores - residents of the Big Apple
interact with people who simply can't afford to stay home when they're sick.
As a global center of commerce and travel, New York City is bound to catch whatever
colds are traveling the world. It’s not a
cause for panic, but it means our healthcare system and our public policy need to be ready.
The Working Families Party and a broad coalition led by New
York State Paid Family Leave Coalition, Make the Road New York, the Restaurant
Opportunities Center of New York, and A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal
Center are working to pass a universal
paid sick days law for New York City. Last month, our paid sick days bill was introduced
in the City Council by Councilmember Gale Brewer and 35 other co-sponsors.
But to make sure City Hall acts fast, we need regular New
Yorkers to speak up. Yesterday, we
launched an online petition in support of the paid sick days bill – and there’s
already over 1,300 signers in less than 24 hours. Add your name, and join our campaign.
Follow Dan Cantor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/workingfamilies