November 11, 2009
Workers Work Despite Having Swine Flu
United States lawmakers were told on Tuesday that the swine flu is causing "an America emergency" as employees who lack paid sick leave go to work despite being ill, which helps to spread the disease.
The A(H1N1) virus "is causing an emergency for workers and families across the country," Senator Chris Dodd told a Senate subcommittee hearing on paid sick leave in a time of pandemic flu.
Dodd said that the U.S. is the only developed nation without national policy on paid sick leaves.
Most government sectors have paid sick leave, but because it is not mandatory about 57 million U.S. private sector workers lack the benefit.
Dodd said that for them, contracting the swine flu "means you have a choice: either go into work sick and risk infecting your co-workers or stay home and lose a day's pay."
Dodd introduced legislation to give U.S. workers paid sick days if they or a family member comes down with swine flu.
He said that as the nation struggles to emerge from a punishing recession and double-digit unemployment, many citizens will not take unpaid sick leave.
"We're in the company -- and I say this respectfully of these countries -- of Lesotho, Liberia, Papua-New Guinea and Swaziland. Those countries and the United States are the five that don't have paid sick leave," Dodd said.
"Five nations, four of whom are struggling economies, barely surviving as nation-states, and the richest country in the world," he told a hearing in the Senate health, education, labor and pensions subcommittee.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person that goes into work when they have swine flu will infect 10 percent of their co-workers.
"If paid sick leave had been a reality when this pandemic began, we would be in better shape," Dodd said.
According to CDC data, the swine flu has infected about 5.7 million people in the U.S. and has claimed 672 lives, including at least 129 children.
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