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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."


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Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

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Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

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