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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 04:12 am

A sick policy

In the U.S., you’d be lucky to work like a beaver

Untitled Document If your bosses ever say that you should be working like a beaver — take ’em up on it. Even the most eager beavers only work about five hours a day, mostly at a fairly leisurely pace, and they take frequent vacations from work. Oh, and another thing: You’ll never see beavers working when they’re sick. Contrast this natural pace with the grind of most American workers, many of whom have two or three jobs, put in 60-hour weeks, rarely get vacations, and often go to work sick. Sick? Here’s a hidden reality behind America’s fabulously rich economy: Nearly half of our country’s full-time private-sector workers get no paid sick days at all. You get sick, you still go to work or lose that day’s pay. It’s mostly the lowest-paid workers who are denied the basic human decency of sick days — the very workers least able to afford missing a day’s pay. Take the low-wage restaurant industry, for example. Eighty-six percent of food-service workers get no days off for illness. Think about that in terms of your own health. Do you really want feverish restaurant employees coughing into the chili and sneezing into the schnitzel? Yet, restaurant industry lobbyists are going all out to kill a bill that would ensure seven paid sick days a year to most workers. It’s not like this is a lavish benefit — it’s a modest statement of common decency. But decency doesn’t seem to be in the ethical framework of industry leaders. For example, a spokeswoman for the Cracker Barrel chain dismisses the need, saying that employees can schedule doctor appointments “at times when they are not working.”
Show me a beaver that would be that cold.  

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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