a woman with long, dark hair wiping her nose with a tissue

What I am up to today.

I am sick today.  It’s not so bad – just a cold, but it’s uncomfortable and shitty in addition to inopportune timing, but don’t we always get sick at the worst time?  I have been traveling a lot for my job, and because airports are disgusting cesspools of disease I actually expected to be sick around this time.  After much hand-washing, however, I escaped unscathed from the airport’s dirty little paws, only to come home to a girlfriend who would become sick a couple of days later.

By now you are wondering: when does paid sick leave come in?  If your job sends you traveling about, doesn’t it give you paid sick leave?  Why yes! Yes it does, and it is awesome.  But my girlfriend, however, does not have paid sick leave at the juice bar where she works.  The reason that she is sick now: one of her coworkers refused to go home when she was sick, infecting my girlfriend and surely anyone who came into the tiny New York City space. I am sure my girlfriend’s coworker did not refuse to go home because she is careless or malicious; being sick sucks, and working a food service job while sick is not super fun.  My guess is that, if she could have gone home without it affecting her income -if she could have taken care of herself and others around her in a way that did not negatively affect her livelihood – she probably would have gone home.  Wouldn’t you?

New York City was pretty close to requiring paid sick leave for every worker until Speaker Quinn rejected the proposal last month, citing the economy.  It’s really unfortunate, because people need paid sick leave especially when they are struggling to make ends meet; not making rent or being able to pay the bills without the money from a particular shift is great motivation to stay at work sick. For the people who have to care for sick children, who are overwhelmingly women, taking care of your sick child might mean risking eviction or getting your utilities cut off.  Paid sick a women’s rights issue, a queer liberation issue, an economic justice issue, a racial justice issue.

I am a lucky one – I have paid sick leave from my job.  But I still got sick because there’s no requirement to provide workers with paid sick leave in New York City, as I am sure every wealthy person who got raw vegan takeout from the juice bar that day did as well.  Me getting sick is certainly not the worst consequence (or even that bad of a consequence, let’s be honest, I probably was gonna get a cold sometime this season anyway) of no paid sick leave for workers, but the point I am trying to make is that for those of us who do have paid sick leave, this is more than a solidarity issue.  So, my message to wealthy New Yorkers with paid sick leave: the next time this comes around, and you or someone you know feels that this is not your issue, remember that your fancy raw vegan takeout – the one with all the right amino acids and acai berry and coconut water and shit – will sometimes come with a side of disease-ridden snot until the workers that are serving you have paid sick leave.  Gross, right?  Paid sick leave for all workers: Get on that shit.

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