Wednesday, November 4, 2009



Thomas Riggins

"At Work With The Flu" is the New York Times headline in Tuesday's Business Section [11-3-2009]. "Many, Lacking Paid Sick Days, Aid a Pandemic." It shouldn't shock anyone that our capitalist system is structured to help, not hinder, the spread of disease and death among the general population since business profits come first and human needs and basic decency come second-- if they come at all.

President Obama has declared Swine Flu to be a national emergency but that doesn't mean those companies that refuse paid sick time to their employees are going to stop enforcing policies that help spread the flu virus around. And please note that what's gong on now in this regard applies to any type of infectious disease that could blow up into a pandemic or even a local outbreak of such a disease. It is the nature of capitalism that leads to this.

"Tens of millions of people, or about 40% of all private-sector workers," the Times reports, "do not receive paid sick days, and as a result many of them cannot afford to stay home when they are ill." [Speed the day when then is no more private sector!]

It is not only that they are so low paid that they can't afford to stay home, they also face being fired if they do. Many restaurant workers, for example, are in this situation-- so remember every time you go out to eat you are risking exposure to the flu, TB, etc. from the food handlers, cooks, and food servers who are being forced to come in and cough and spread infections around for you to get and take home to your family and to work for your work mates. This is one of the ways a pandemic spreads!

Of course the US Chamber of Commerce doesn't see a problem. Their spokesman had this to say about workers not having paid sick leave and the threat of spreading death and disease as a result. "The problem is not nearly as great as some people say. Lots of employers work these things out on an ad hoc basis with their employees." And what worker wouldn't prefer his or her boss to treat them in an ad hoc fashion rather than have a well thought out and agreed upon policy!

Here is an ad hoc policy at work. This is a quote from Paul Hotchkiss who works for Wal-Mart. He had swine flu but was made to show up for work any way. "There are a lot of people," he said, "who have swine flu right now who are going in because they worry about getting fired for having too many points." POINTS? What's that about. Well it seems you can use your sick leave, if you must, but you get a POINT in your record if you do. You can get points for other things Wal-Mart doesn't like as well. Too many points and you're fired. So if you get sick-- better to show up. You don't get paid for the first day of sick leave in any case so if you can't afford to lose a day's pay (and get a point) just be smart-- don't get sick. Even if the store is full of sickos it's going to be your demerit if you get ill. Mr. Hotchkiss did get sent home for looking "pale" but didn't see a doctor because "he could not afford the company's health insurance." [What's the reason we don't nationalize Wal-Mart?]

What about keeping the kiddies home when they have the flu? Schools are reporting that THEY send them home when flu is detected but many are back the next day!!! Why? It's "because Mommy had to work." Naturally, companies that will fire you for being sick won't let you stay home with a sick child. Capitalism isn't for namby-pambies.

The TriBeCa restaurant Thalassa in NYC made one of their food handlers with flu and a bad cough come in anyway "short of people"-- make note for future dining out destinations.

White Castle has great ad hoc policies. They take swine flu "seriously" and make "team members" [they don't have "workers"] stay home until they feel better. But won't they come in because they need the money? White Castle doesn't have PAID sick leave-- you should sacrifice for the team no doubt, be a good team player. Not to worry. Team members can make up the lost pay working "extra hours after recovering." How considerate.

All this annoying moral turpitude goes on under the nose of Congress. Why? Because most of the Congress people serve the private sector not the people who elected them. But a ray of light is beginning to shine on this morass of private sector evil doing. ROSA DeLAURO, a DEMOCRAT in the House from the nutmeg state is the lead sponsor (with 100 cosponsors) of a bill to REQUIRE firms, of 15+ employees, to give seven days of PAID sick leave a year [Cubans get NINE days of paid sick leave a year, but then the Cuban government isn't run by the PRIVATE SECTOR]. Needless to say the Times reports that "Business groups oppose such legislation, calling it expensive [''profits before people'' remember] and unnecessary [don't we have a surplus population for God's sake].

Anyway, let's wish Ms. DeLauro and her fellow utopians the best of luck with her Bill [of the 177 Bills she has come up with since 1991 (her first term) 4 have been passed]. Maybe we should call our representatives and tell them to get on board-- at least we should e-mail them!