Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

paid sick leave

A waiter serves food to customers dining indoors at Langer's Deli in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Calls for Paid Leave Grow as Workers Face 'Vicious Cycle': Their Jobs or Covid Safety

"In the midst of a horrific pandemic, two-thirds of low-wage workers still lack access to paid sick leave," noted Sen. Bernie Sanders. "That is barbaric."

Brett Wilkins

As U.S. workers ill with Covid-19 during the Omicron surge face the stark choice of staying home without pay at the risk of losing their jobs or reporting to work and possibly infecting colleagues and customers, progressives on Monday renewed calls for the implementation of paid sick leave at the national level.

"I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers. Now I wish I just would've gone to work and not said anything."

"In the midst of a horrific pandemic, two-thirds of low-wage workers still lack access to paid sick leave. That is barbaric," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted.

"We must guarantee that all workers have a right to paid sick leave," he added.

According to a report published Monday by Popular Information and the advocacy group More Perfect Union, workers at Red Lobster, the seafood restaurant chain owned by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, are being forced to report for work under threat of reprimands that could lead to termination.

The report states that:

James Swartz worked as a bartender at a Pennsylvania Red Lobster for a year-and-a-half starting in December 2019. He was paid $3.50 per hour, plus tips. In an interview, Swartz said when he developed Covid symptoms and told management he was not coming in for his weekend shifts, he was subjected to "threats." Red Lobster management told Swartz that he "needed to come in for work" and if he didn't show up or find another way to cover the shift he would "get written up."

Another Red Lobster employee who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution told The Columbus Dispatch that "we don't have sick days and yes, I go into work when I'm sick. If we call off, we get written up."

The worker said they would be fired after four write-ups.

"It's a vicious cycle," Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told the Associated Press. "As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick."

One New Mexico worker, who also did not want to be identified, told the AP that they took time off to get tested for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms of the illness.

"I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers," the worker—who lost $160 per day off—said. "Now I wish I just would've gone to work and not said anything."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) echoed the sentiments of many progressives when she tweeted Monday that "there's a simple answer" to these workers' dilemma: "Paid leave."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Leaked Report Suggests Impunity for IDF Troops in Deadly Stop of Palestinian-American Elder

"This is a policy: Israel does not prosecute those responsible for harming Palestinians, thus making their lives miserable," said the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Exactly Right': Progressives Back Arizona Dems Censure of Sinema

"If you are a Democrat and you can't uphold the fundamental right to vote for all citizens... then there's a problem," said Rep. Ro Khanna.

Brett Wilkins ·


Amid Existential Threat to Reproductive Rights, Congress Urged to Act

"It's the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and if we don't fight like hell it could very well be the last," said one campaigner, who called on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Women's Health Protection Act.

Brett Wilkins ·


Black Mississippi State Senators Stage Walkout as Critical Race Theory Ban Passed

"We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards," said one Black senator who taught for 33 years. "That's what this bill does."

Brett Wilkins ·


Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo