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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sick days, sick pay, sick system

Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that would give many Americans seven--count them, 7--paid sick days every year, according to today's New York Times. Can socialism be far behind? (In the United States, any policy that treats human beings with sympathy and compassion is considered socialistic, it seems.)

Of course seven days is not a whole lot, especially compared with the much more generous sick leave policies of pretty much every other industrialized nation on the planet and possibly in the universe (I will bet even those evil Klingons do better than Americans on this score.)

Of course there is always a catch: The Healthy Families Act would only apply to employers with 15 or more employees, and to earn one hour of paid sick leave you have to work 30 hours at your job. That means that once you have used up your seven days you can't get sick again any time soon.

So how is the "business community" reacting to this proposed legislation, which went nowhere during the Bush administration? Why, they're against it, of course! Too expensive. I suppose that during this economic crisis, when people are losing jobs right and left, is not the best time to say that I think any employer that can't or won't treat its workers humanely does not deserve to be in business. But that is exactly what I think.

And something tells me this isn't just about the money. Indeed, the lack of paid sick leave leads to workers coming to work when they are sick, which means that other workers get infected, which means that more workers are out sick (paid or not), which means that profits and productivity go down rather than up. The Times article quotes one boss who understands this:

But Lindsey Lee, a coffee shop owner in Madison, Wis., who adopted a policy of paid sick days in 2006, said it had been a success, helping to prevent the spread of illness among his employees.

“A person is not coming in sick, and then two days later there are two employees not coming in, and then three days later three employees not coming in,” Mr. Lee said. “It has helped in the long run.”

So if providing paid sick leave is actually good for employers in the long run, why are they so opposed to it? Perhaps it is because anything that loosens the power of bosses over their workers even the slightest bit is seen as threatening to the master-slave relationship that characterizes so many sectors of U.S. capitalism. No wonder socialism is no longer a dirty word to many Americans.

Worst slide story. A cartoon musical by Walt Handelsman. Laugh until you cry.

1 comment:

Anne Gilbert said...

That cartoon was hilarious! I saw it last week, I think, via another venue,and sent it on to interested parties. Thanks for uploading the link again so I could watch it!
Anne G