Corporations Spread the Flu
- Corporations Spread the Flu Saturday, 12 January 2013 10:24 By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take
(Photo: Marshall Astor / Flickr)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
But now, some are fighting back.
The group, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – or ROC-UNITED – has launched a campaign targeting one of the larger corporate abusers of workers' rights when it comes to paid sick leave: Darden Restaurants, which controls more than 1,900 restaurants including chains like Red Lobster and Olive Garden, and employs 168,000 employees.
You can check out ROC-UNITED's brilliant new web ad right here.
The point the group is making is that none of Darden's restaurants
provide paid sick leave. And so servers and others handling your food
just can't afford to take a day off when they're sick.
It's also worth noting that Darden earned a profit of a half-billion dollars last year and its CEO raked in a not-too-shabby $8.5 million. He gets paid time
off when he's sick, by the way. Once again, profits and executive
paychecks outweigh the public good.
Corporate America isn't going to suddenly find it in its heart to
treat their workers better, which is why we need to pass federal laws
guaranteeing basic paid sick leave to all American workers. But until
then, maybe we can push them in the right direction by taking action
with our wallets and pocketbooks.
Before you dine out, it's worth calling the restaurant to see if they offer paid sick leave to their workers. If they don't, then during a
flu season like this, it's more than likely someone at that restaurant
is trying to cover up an illness – which you may well carry home. So,
both for moral and very practical health reasons, it makes a lot of
sense to boycott the place rather than eat there.
Let's start rewarding businesses that treat their employees right and actually care about their health. And let's avoid those that put greed
ahead of the health of the rest of us.This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or
reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the
original site of publication.
Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks
Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored
Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive
radio talk show. Follow him on Twitter at @Thom_Hartmann.
Sam Sacks is a Progressive Commentator and former Democratic staffer
on Capitol Hill. He is currently the Senior Producer of The Big Picture
with Thom Hartmannairing weeknights at 7PM EST on RT and Free Speech TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SamSacks.
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