Paid Sick Days Can Prevent a Real 'Contagion'

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The blockbuster movie "Contagion" reminds the public how quickly germs can spread. While the film is fictional, a lack of paid sick days can contribute to similar scenarios, says Ellen Bravo. A short web video exemplifies the risks.

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'More Sensible Tact'

The mayor of Seattle took a more sensible tact. In late September he proudly signed a paid sick days bill that will cover all but the smallest businesses in that city. The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, which propelled the bill, was made up of more than 100 local organizations and small businesses. They included Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale, who provided cupcakes for kids to decorate and hand out to council members the day of the vote.

The bill signing took place at Plum Bistro Restaurant, owned by Makini Howell, one of the first small business owners to support the proposed ordinance.

At the bill signing at her restaurant, Howell explained, when the mayor and coalition leaders came by, that: "Over the last year, I joined with a group of small business owners to work alongside with public health professionals, labor unions, community groups and elected leaders to craft this law."

She added that "by collaborating and working together, we produced a law that protects the health of our customers, increases the economic security of employees, provides flexibility for small businesses and strengthens the economy."

These legislative wins are happening because there is broad public support for paid sick days. Recent polls conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research in cities and states across the country show overwhelming support for the measure across party lines. Even the majority of Republicans don't want to get the flu with their fries. And, support for paid sick days can energize low-turnout voters and propel them to go vote.

Support for paid sick days continues to grow. By getting involved, you can help ensure that workers don't have to make the awful choice between their health and their families' security.

Together, we can help prevent a real Contagion – and confine the headaches to those corporate lobbyists.


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Ellen Bravo is the executive director of Family Values "at" Work, a network of 16 state coalitions working for paid sick days, family leave insurance and other policies that value families at work. A lifelong social justice activist and feminist, Bravo was recently honored as a Visionary Leader by the Ford Foundation and with the Courage and Intelligence Award by the Frances Perkins Foundation. Bravo, who also teaches women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the author of "Taking on the Big Boys," and numerous other books, articles and reports on working women's issues.

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