Saturday, July 31

In a Pandemic, American Workers Without Paid Medical Leave Can’t Afford One Sick Day | US News

TThe coronavirus pandemic has fueled demand for American workers to receive paid sick leave from their jobs, as essential workers risk not only contracting coronavirus, but also losing two weeks of income if they test positive for the virus. .

American workers receive far fewer days off than workers in other major industrialized nations, and work an average of four to eight more hours a week than the average worker in Europe. More than 32 million workers in the U.S. they did not have paid sick days before the pandemic, and low-wage workers are least likely have paid sick leave and other benefits like health insurance.

Esperanza Jiménez, a Miami-area janitor for an office cleaning contractor, lives with her son and three daughters, and relies on her income to send money to her 90-year-old mother in Nicaragua.

While working as an essential worker during the pandemic, Jiménez contracted Covid-19 in late December 2020 and spent several days in the hospital. While you were sick from work, you did not receive any sick leave compensation from your employer because you were exempt of the federal paid leave requirement.

“I was worried about my bills, because it doesn’t matter if you’re sick or not, you still have to pay the bills,” Jiménez said. “When I got out of the hospital I still had these horrible muscle aches all over my body, these terrible headaches and hoarseness in my throat, but I can’t miss work because they won’t pay me for my days off. . “

Although government action such as the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan Act expanded paid sick leave to millions of workers in the US, advocates of paid leave and workers are now pushing for a permanent solution. , since the The United States is the only major nation in the world without a federal paid leave policy.

“It’s something we should have been in place years ago,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, a campaign by several organizations that advocate for a federal policy of paid leave for medical and family matters.

“The pandemic highlighted the crisis that was brewing. When the global pandemic hit, we were unprepared and one of the first things Congress did was implement a paid temporary leave law, knowing it would save lives and jobs. “

Veronica Gonzales has two jobs, one at Taco Bell and the other at the Jack in the Box fast food chain in Alameda, California. Through the pandemic, he had to struggle to receive paid time off for quarantine while his son was hospitalized for Covid-19, and even recently started working when he was ill.

“Working during the pandemic has been extremely stressful for us,” Gonzales said. “We have to work. We have to get paid and we can’t afford not to get paid.”

A campaign of workers, small and large business owners and activists have been lobbying Congress to Approve a federal paid leave policy and also fights to enact paid leave at the local level.

Nija Phelps of Milford, Connecticut, an advocate for Paid Leave for All, became involved in the campaign after she and her husband had to quit their jobs and move to Michigan in 2013 to care for her mother-in-law, who was recovering from her heart. . surgery. Neither of them had paid leave to maintain their jobs and income.

“Life was in the air. We really didn’t know what was going to happen. As he got stronger, we felt better about it, but there were struggles for all of us, ”said Phelps. “Not having an employer or a government to help with that, it’s scary, it’s cruel and really unnecessary because we know that we can make it work not only because other countries have been doing it for decades, but there are viable plans and many other states. they are adopting it. “

The paid leave policies have approved in California, New York, Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, and local ordinances have approved in US cities and counties.

Angel Maldonado, a public transportation safety officer, is pushing for paid sick leave will be provided to contracted county employees in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

In 2018, he had to return to work shortly after prostate cancer surgery. He used a catheter at work for two months, which often leaked. He is now scheduled to have back surgery and worries that he will have to go back to work while he is still recovering because he cannot afford to live without the income.

“The situation was very difficult. I am the only one who works in the house and my wife, retired and disabled, depends on me, ”said Maldonado. “It is not fair. We are human beings and we have biological needs like anyone else.”

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