By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks at Truthout, 1/12/13
Flu season is upon us – and it’s a nasty one this year. You probably know of a handful of people who’ve already contracted the bug in what the Center for Disease Control is calling the worst flu season in ten years.
What’s worse is that Corporate America is multiplying the harmful effects of this flu season by not offering its workers paid sick time off. According to a recent survey by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, nearly 80% of food workers say they don’t receive paid sick leave, and more than half say that without those benefits, they’re forced to come into work with an illness.
For many nurses around the country who don’t have paid sick leave, they have to hide their illnesses or risk not being able to pay the rent that month. When a healthcare worker shows signs of illness, they are sent home and can’t return to work until 72 hours after their last symptom goes away. And since days of not collecting a paycheck can put a serious dent in a family’s finances, many nurses and other hospital employees just hop themselves up on Sudafed for days desperately trying to cover up the symptoms.
No one wants sick people preparing their food at restaurants or caring for us at hospitals, especially during flu season. But that’s exactly what’s happening, because Corporate America has sucked every last penny of profits they can out of their workers: flat-lining their wages in the face of increased productivity, busting up their unions, corner-cutting workplace safety regulations, and now cutting time-off opportunities for the flu.
One reason they can get away with this is there are no federal protections for sick workers. The United States is the only developed nation in the entire world that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave to its workers.
And now we all have to suffer the consequences of this corporate greed. In 2009, the American Journal of Public Health found that as many as 5 million more people were sickened by the H1N1 flu as a direct result of lack of access to paid sick leave. Who knows how many more people will be sickened this year?
But now, some are fighting back….
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