Statement of Linda Meric
Executive Director – 9to5, National Association of Working Women
Denver, CO, January 10, 2010 — The Department of Health and Human Services has declared this week “National Influenza Vaccination Week” in the United States to encourage more widespread flu vaccination and call attention to the possibility of a third mass outbreak of H1N1 flu in the U.S.
Americans – especially those with chronic health conditions who may not realize they are at high risk for developing complications from influenza – are warned not to become complacent because of the lack of H1N1 news coverage and make decisions to skip the vaccine altogether.
But the United States faces another hurdle in ensuring that those who need the vaccine most receive it: the lack of a national paid sick days policy.
Too many American workers lack the time they need to get themselves and their families vaccinated because they do not have access to paid sick days. For these workers – many of them low-wage workers struggling mightily to make ends meet in a tough economy — taking the time away from work to be vaccinated might mean the loss of pay or even a job.
Nearly 60 million workers lack paid sick days on the job and nearly 100 million do not have a single paid sick day in which to provide preventive care for a child or other loved one. The lack of this basic labor standard means that workers who deal with the public, like waiters and child care aides, often go to work sick, jeopardizing others because they cannot afford to lose pay in this tough economic time. It also means that they do not have the time for preventive care – like getting a flu vaccination or getting children vaccinated.
The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid sick days policy. But lost productivity due to sick workers costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research actually found that, while a paid sick days policy would impose modest costs, the estimated business savings total $11.69 per week per worker from lower turnover, improved productivity and reduced spread of illness.
So, in addition to catching us up with the rest of the world, and ensuring the public health, paid sick days are good for business and good for our economy.
As we again consider the impact of H1N1 flu, we must move decisively toward passing the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation, currently pending in Congress that would guarantee paid sick days for American workers, ensuring that all Americans have the time to care for themselves and their families.
For interviews, or for more information on 9to5 and our paid sick campaigns, contact Public Relations Coordinator
Rosemary Harris Lytle at (303) 628-0925 or visit www.9to5.org.
About the Author: Linda Meric, a nationally-known speaker on family-friendly workplace policy, is executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women. A diverse, grassroots, membership-based nonprofit that helps strengthen women’s ability to win economic justice, 9to5 has staffed offices in Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose. Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].