With the threat of a more virulent strain of swine flu expected to return soon, an estimated one million working people in New York City are still forced to choose between their health and employment because they can't get paid sick days.

We should establish paid sick days as a basic workplace standard for all New Yorkers. It's the right thing to do for workers and their families, and it's a simple, common sense way to protect public health. We must not be forced to go to work sick or send our sick kids to school for lack of better options. In the restaurant industry alone, 85 percent of workers have no paid sick days, and more than 50 percent go to work sick.

San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee have passed universal paid sick days bills, and 13 states and Congress are considering paid sick days bills too. As a global city at the center of the Swine Flu outbreak, New York City should set the example.

The City Council has taken an important step to solve this problem by introducing a bill guaranteeing paid sick days for every full-time and part-time working person in our city. This bill is long overdue and would perfectly complement the city's coordinated push to mitigate the spread of swine flu. It would protect the health of everyone in the city while alleviating the burden that falls most heavily on low-wage workers who cannot afford to lose a single day's pay.

Some are concerned about the negative economic impact on small businesses. To the contrary, there is hard evidence that businesses will benefit economically. Research shows that paid sick days will produce a net gain by decreasing employee turnover, improving productivity and reducing the spread of illness.

Employees at companies with fewer than 10 workers can earn up to five paid sick days a year, whereas employees at larger companies and businesses can earn up to nine paid sick days a year. Small business advocates have endorsed the bill. Private employers must come on board. There is no reason why healthy workers and healthy businesses cannot co-exist.



  AlbertBaldeo.Com 2005