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Swine Flu vs. Lack of Paid Sick Leave in NC

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Half of all workers in NC can't miss work because of swine fluGetting sick is nothing new. The way we fight the spread of infectious disease - regular hand washing, getting vaccinated, avoiding travel and staying home from work if sick - are common sense things that everyone can do.

Well, not everyone.

Nearly 1 in 2 workers in North Carolina lack even a single day of paid sick leave. For these workers, missing a day of work to care for themselves or a sick family member is not an option. For these workers, doing the right thing - following the expert advice of the Centers for Disease Control and state health officials - could cost them a full days pay or worse if they lose their jobs over it.

From the AFL-CIO blog:

One key recommendation to prevent the spread of swine flu is to stay home from work if you become infected with the virus. But as we reported in September, nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers have no paid sick days. For low-income workers, the number jumps to 76 percent. Says Pat Garofalo at the Think Progress Wonk Room:

"Unfortunately, staying home due to illness is simply not possible for a large number of Americans….These workers have to decide between the health of themselves and their co-workers, and the wages that they lose by staying home."

Hopefully we can keep the current Swine flu outbreak contained here in North Carolina, but it’s a good reminder why paid sick days are about our community’s public health. When workers go to work sick because they can’t risk a day’s pay, their germs become our germs.

That’s why the NC State AFL-CIO and our partners in the NC Paid Sick Days Campaign are working heard to move legislation through the NC General Assembly, the Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act (HB 177, SB 534), that would guarantee all workers in North Carolina a basic number of paid sick days.

Your help needed to win paid sick leave

We know that paid sick days benefit everyone: our families, our businesses, and our public health. But corporate business lobbyists are putting up an extremely tough fight and the legislation needs your help.

Our bills are set to be heard by House and Senate committees in the coming weeks. We need you to make sure committee members know why paid sick leave is important.

Please contact your representatives now, particularly those in the House Commerce Committee, and tell them to support HB 177 and guarantee paid sick days for all workers.

Key House Commerce Committee Contacts (targets only, not inclusive):

Even if you don't live in these districts, these folks need to hear from all of us that now is precisely the time and the reason we need the Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act.