H1N1: 40% of private-sector workers in US lack sick days

Ah the joys of living in a Corporate Fascist State where the rich elite have seized the government and enslaved the people.
Remember when the Personnel Department became Human Resources back during the Reagan years?
That was when you went from being a human being to being a resource.  Those of us who were hip enough and cynical enough to observe described ourselves as “wet ware”.
Did you know that in France, where they still have an industrial base people get a months vacation and paid sick leaves along with national health insurance?
November 5, 10:38 AMPittsburgh Grassroots ExaminerMike Boda

A man (sic) too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.
-Spanish proverb

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.

One Response to “H1N1: 40% of private-sector workers in US lack sick days”

  1. Emily Says:

    I never understood the US idea of a set number of sick days per year. In Europe, you get a sick day when you’re sick. If you need to be off for more than a couple of days, a sick note from your doctor may be needed, but you’re off home, getting well and not bringing your contagion to work, until you’re well again.

    Of course, both are open to abuse: I’ve heard of US colleagues calling in to check how many sick days they have and if they have enough, using one as a day off and over here, a one day ‘mental health day’ is quite a normal concept.

    Naturally, the European system is backed up with a social system which protects the companies from some of the costs of sick people (for example, after a certain number of days, the social security takes over a percentage of the salary cost) so it would be difficult to implement in the US system where there is no general social system which provides such services.

    It’s horrible, however, that there is pressure on employees to work when sick. It’s irresponsible due to the pressures put on a sick employee as well as because of the risk of spreading contagion within the workplace. Even over here, companies frown on employees who are sick too often and there is subtle pressure to keep on working when one is under the weather (classic contagion time for a disease such as the flu!)

    Companies have a lot of growing up to do and maybe H1N1 will force them to do so if it ever does reach pandemic proportions (instead of the largely media-driven pandemic we have now!) What a shame that that is the only way to make them wake up to the importance of ensuring a healthy workforce.

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