A man (sic) too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.
Most people can make the connections between globalized consumer capitalism and its role in shuttling various organisms around the planet, but with US workers increasingly forced into competition with their counterparts in developing countries for the sake of the shareholders, does such a requisite lowering of wages and loss of workplace benefits, such as access to health care and paid sick leave create the perfect conditions for the spread of infectious diseases, such as H1N1, better known as swine flu? In the US, 40% of private-sector workers, most of us in low-wage service (tourism) industry jobs that require contact with the public (or their food, drink, cas, and cards) have no sick days. Not that being granted paid sick time as a part of a benefits package is any guarantee that you will not be disciplined for using them, as I learned the hard way, ironically, while employed by a local health insurer. Although unpaid sick leave is mandated by federal law, calling off, for any reason is frowned upon by the service industry and small businesses, as State right-to-work and “at-will” employment laws give employers the last word.
As is the case with many social problems, being forced to work while sick has a disproportionate effect on women, who make up 22 million of the 57 million US workers who are unable to take a sick day. This translates into sick children being sent to child care providers and schools, as their parents or parent are unable to stay home to care for them, due to the loss of a day’s wages or the job (or jobs).
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, leaving the house only to get medical care. Schools and workplaces are encouraging this policy to avoid infecting other students and employees.
Worldwide, run-of-the-mill seasonal flu is responsible for between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths annualy, with some 36,000 of them in the US. In an increasingly part-time, temporary culture of employment where office equpment is more valued than office workers, the continued emphasis on profits over peoples’ lives continues to puts us all at risk.