Calls for Paid Leave Grow as Workers Face ‘Vicious Cycle’: Their Jobs or Covid Safety

Jerri-Lynn here. Early auguries suggest the Democrats are going to get slammed in the upcoming mid-terms. As well they should, given their failure to deliver on any measures to improve the lot of Americans, particularly the essential workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid, let alone updating the New Deal and the Great Society for the twenty-first century. Enacting a right to paid sick leave, especially  in the midst of a pandemic, should be a no-brainer, if party leaders saw the needs of constituents as paramount.  Alas, it’s donor priorities that define the political agenda. So employers now insist on sick workers returning to the workplace, under threat of termination, no matter how sick – not to mention contagious – each may be.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

As U.S. workers ill with Covid-19 during the Omicron surge face the stark choice of staying home without pay at the risk of losing their jobs or reporting to work and possibly infecting colleagues and customers, progressives on Monday renewed calls for the implementation of paid sick leave at the national level.

“In the midst of a horrific pandemic, two-thirds of low-wage workers still lack access to paid sick leave. That is barbaric,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted.

“We must guarantee that all workers have a right to paid sick leave,” he added.

According to a report published Monday by Popular Information and the advocacy group More Perfect Union, workers at Red Lobster, the seafood restaurant chain owned by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, are being forced to report for work under threat of reprimands that could lead to termination.

The report states that:

James Swartz worked as a bartender at a Pennsylvania Red Lobster for a year-and-a-half starting in December 2019. He was paid $3.50 per hour, plus tips. In an interview, Swartz said when he developed Covid symptoms and told management he was not coming in for his weekend shifts, he was subjected to “threats.” Red Lobster management told Swartz that he “needed to come in for work” and if he didn’t show up or find another way to cover the shift he would “get written up.”

Another Red Lobster employee who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution told The Columbus Dispatch that “we don’t have sick days and yes, I go into work when I’m sick. If we call off, we get written up.”

The worker said they would be fired after four write-ups.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told the Associated Press. “As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick.”

One New Mexico worker, who also did not want to be identified, told the APthat they took time off to get tested for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms of the illness.

“I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers,” the worker—who lost $160 per day off—said. “Now I wish I just would’ve gone to work and not said anything.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) echoed the sentiments of many progressives when she tweeted Monday that “there’s a simple answer” to these workers’ dilemma: “Paid leave.”

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  1. dk

    Assuming for a moment we are on a different timeline, and paid leave is implemented. Wouldn’t redundant staffing also be appropriate? I understand that for business’ and economist’s minds, redundancy is an anathema. But a highly profitable (and intentionally accelerated) economy could sustain it. Certainly medical and support staffing should have redundancy, I’m old enough to remember when retired nurses were called back to work during SARS-1 and previous flu surges.

    Democrats have no stomach for authority. The current situations (not just COVID but climate, anti-trust and other regulation) call for decisive action and change. If Dems can’t be authoritarian when necessary to the extent needed, another party will get the chance to wield it. That’s democracy working, not failing.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Vaccine mandates are diversion theater. Putting the spotlight on vaccine mandates is designed to keep the cameras away from ongoing lying about mask-effectiveness and ongoing sabotage of mask availability, ongoing sabotage of testing availability, ongoing lying about aerial spread and ongoing obstruction of ventilation upgrading.

        The government plan is to kill as many millions of people with covid as possible over the next few decades without it becoming so obvious that mass movements of people would rise up to seek a policy for the organized mass physical extermination of the elites who are engineering this stealthy mass-killoff on purpose.

        In the meantime, the only thing that atomised movement-less individuals can do is shun Red Lobster and other Typhoid Superspreader businesses.

        1. lance ringquist

          they are owned by nafta billy clintons wall street parasites, private equity/hedge funds, parasites.

          funny did bernie ever say trump was barbaric? not sure. what took bernie so long to admit back door wise, that the nafta democrats are barbaric?

          trump did offer a kinda medicare for all, paid leave, close the country down back in march 2020, the nafta democrats refused. thats barbarism.

          and i am not a trumper. but trump was a better president than nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, and the current nafta democrat biden.

          they set the bar so low, that trump glided right over it without breaking a sweat.

      2. dk

        Naw, vaccine mandates are a bare minimum, I’m thinking bust out the Defense Production Act to install ventilation in schools, and produce RATs and N95s to flood the market and kill the prices.

        *cue Crocodile Dundee “…That’s a knife” meme*

        People think the unilateral use of authority is intrinsically bad, but it doesn’t have to be. Electricity is pretty nasty too, if one doesn’t handle it correctly. All of the intrinsically dangerous electricity you use has been brought to you by technologies forged for decades, and even so there are still rules you have to follow for your own safety. If people want to “be free” to lick wall outlets or the shiny bits in the circuit breaker panel, it’s just not going to work out for them because of the tyranny having been brought up to accept superficial rote knowledge as sufficient for responsible maturity.

        Ludicrously, rejection of authority is held to be a sign of youthfulness and vigor. It’s actually a sign of poor education and tragic inexperience. Loving or hating authority is doing it wrong, literally nothing works like that. It’s a tool, a mechanism of civil action. If nominally thoughtful people can’t figure out how and when to use it and just sit on their hands (pouting harder though!), thoughtless people can certainly fill that breach.

  2. vlade

    The thing I still don’t get about the US politics, is that when Dems don’t deliver for their nominal constituents (workers), the constituents go and vote for Republicans, who are not a single whit more likely do deliver the same.

    Yet, trying to persuade them to vote for a third party seems nigh impossible. No wonder Dems (or Reps) do what they like..

    1. Michael Ismoe

      What third parties? The Dems had the Greens knocked off the ballot in AZ in 2020. It’s how they won the state’s EV. The Dems only care about voter choice when there are two choices.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Tell me about it!

        I had to go ’round the back of Jack Robinson’s barn in order to cast my vote for the Green Party presidential candidate. But I did it anyway.

        [Family blog] the duopoly parties.

      1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

        The party of non-voters always wins any U.S election outright, hands down, as its ‘candidates’ garner more ‘votes’ than those cast for any actual candidate.

    2. Pilar

      I’m convinced that the Republicans allow more flexibility to their party platform than the Democrats. Look at the Tea Party and Trump and Tucker Carlson. The DNC has been completely stagnant forever. I don’t agree with either party but the Republican leadership has embraced populism more and will receive more votes as a result. I don’t think they are delivering on their populist rhetoric, and I’m not sure where this is heading but the Democrats are completely clueless as to how most people think and view them.

    3. Left in Wisconsin

      One shouldn’t oversell the popularity of Republicans – in DC and in many states like Wisconsin, they have been able to take over the government despite only occasionally receiving more total votes than the Dems – but this is just more evidence that the R’s are way better at politics than the D’s. They have been extremely successful in a) promoting the culture wars to the extent that “trolling the libs” is viewed by many as a valid electoral platform and b) convincing many people that government can’t work, so there is no point in (voting for politicians who claim to be) trying to make it work (which requires such complete cognitive dissonance on so many levels but whatever). I attribute this to 50 years (roughly since the Powell memo) of trial-and-error politics, testing out different strategies and seeing what does and doesn’t work. Also to the gullibility of a press corps that prefers to focus on the words coming out of politicians’ mouths rather than the actions they take. The brilliance of Republicans is that their actual program – tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, attacking unions – never changes but they are completely flexible with regard to the issues they run on – this year education seems to be a winner for them – because elections are just about winning, not about political programs (of which neither party really gives a sh1t).

      But everything has limits. In my opinion, the R’s are making a huge mistake by actually trying to get rid of abortion rights, as opposed to just claiming to be trying to. The culture wars only work when they never completely succeed and thus can be used forever to motivate the base.

      1. lance ringquist

        why did the nafta democrats run a rich women against walker who closed down her bicycle factory and move it offshore. she then pretended to care about the people.

        till the nafta democrats own up to nafta billy clintons disastrous polices, and run that type out, they will lose ever more, and occasionally eke out a win by the skins of their teeth.

        in my opinion, they won’t, they are wed to nafta billy clintons disastrous policies, because they think they were right.

    4. Joe Well

      The “third parties” are the Greens and the Libertarians, both of which can be incredibly egg-headed. The Green Party and Libertarian Party got better at messaging just in time for Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang respectively to take a lot of the wind out of their sails.

      If the MSM were willing to give oxygen to an independent candidate like Ross Perot 30 years ago, things could happen.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      It is revenge voting. If citizens are betrayed and can get nothing else by voting, at least they can get revenge on the very most recent batch of officeholders who betrayed them very most recently.

      Troll the vote.

  3. Roger Blakely

    There were two separate programs were the government reimbursed employers for up to eighty hours of paid leave for employees who were either under quarantine for having been exposed to someone spreading SARS-CoV-2 or isolating at home sick with COVID-19. Both of these programs have ended. In the midst of this record-breaking surge you would think that Democrats, Republicans, and public health officials could agree that a third program is necessary.

    During the life of the first two programs no one paid too much attention to how the employee contracted the illness. Did they get it from work, or did they get it from outside of work? It would be less expensive to the broader economy for the federal government to cover the costs of a third program that liberally doled out paid leave to workers dealing with COVID-19.

    Like I said yesterday, neoliberals could achieve their dream of living with the virus if they just put everybody in respirators and goggles. Without wearing respirators and goggles all workers in indoor public settings are going to get sick again and again. A British NIH study indicated that one in thirteen workers will get long COVID badly enough to be put on disability for something like six months.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “The party of no” worked for the GOP, a regional rump party if not for Team Blue. Why would they change? The most recent miscreant isn’t going to sour their voters, and annoying liberals is the unspoken plank of the GOP. On that front, their voters always get rewarded.

      Biden isn’t moving to work hard enough where the GOP may decide they need to get on the bandwagon or be trampled, how past bipartisanship comes about. It’s never been about guys like Biden and Romney coming to an agreement. When you do stuff like that, you get jokes like McCain-Feingold. They know who Biden is and know they are too R word to pick up voters, so why should they care from their perspective?

      For the nominal center-left across so many western countries, they are both poorly educated and convinced they represent a golden age. The only thing that kept them pliable was that Trump might call for good policy. Remember how huffy they were age out Trump’s name appearing on checks?

  4. Otis B Driftwood

    Jayapal is adept at legislating via Twitter. It appears to be her singular virtue.

    As the leader of the progressive caucus, she is infamous for subverting legislation that would actually help people.

  5. CarlH

    I left twitter recently, but I before I left I was really, really tired of the incredibly strong tweets people like Bernie, Talaib, AOC, etc. send daily, proving they understand our problems, yet they do absolutely zilch to try to get those policies enacted. It is gaslighting at the highest level and it sickens me.

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    Perhaps the antiwork subreddit could begin making special note of every business which has a work-sick policy, so that readers of antiwork can know which places are the Typhoid Mary Covid superspreader spots, and which ones less so.

    If that information reached a hundred million people, they could avoid the Typhoid Covid Restaurants, and patronise the Covid Caution Restaurants only. Workers could flee the Typhoid Covid Restaurants and find work at the Covid Caution Restaurants as more business went there and the Typhoid Covid Restaurants all go extinct.

    Starting with Red Lobster, to encourage the others.

  7. bayoustjohndavid

    It seems to me that call for “paid leave” divert attention from just how sociopathic these business owners are. The worker aren’t getting told “come in to work or you don’t get paid,” they’re being told “come in or get fired.” Paid sick leave wouldn’t amount to much for front of the house restaurant workers anyway. It would help cooks and dishwashers in restaurants, and retail workers, to be sure. But even there, cashiers aren’t working with covid because they can’t afford to miss a shift as much as they’re going in because they’re afraid of being fired. At least, that what it sounds like to me. Call for paid by Democrat pols, aren’t just empty theater, they divert attention from how barbaric the system is. Though I believe in paid, calls for protected leave would be better under the circumstances.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      paid AND protected leave.

      If a whole new word is necessary for that concept, something like paytected leave or protectopaid leave.

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