COVID-19 pandemic outlines the need for paid sick leave

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America harbors a self-centered culture. “I got mine, I don’t care about yours,” is a popular sentiment that pervades every issue that involves empathy or caring for others. Because of this toxic mindset, the meager sacrifice that “social distancing” involves is a tough or even impossible one to achieve for most Americans. 

Individualism is what garners success in this country. Valuing others’ safety or well being will inevitably hinder you. So, naturally, the overwhelming response to a measure that isn’t enforced legally but is inconvenient is a resounding “I don’t care.” For example, a woman recently garnered attention on Twitter for proudly announcing her visit to a packed Red Robin, stating: “this is America. I’ll do what I want.” (for embed: https://larrybrownsports.com/everything-else/ms-nevada-state-2019-katie-williams-viral-red-robin-tweet/542111)

Ignoring things for convenience’s sake is almost an American invention. While bond measures to fund schools don’t pass because people want to save money on taxes, every year American consumers spend 13.6 billion dollars on coffee. Only 67% of low income individuals want the government to alleviate income inequality, and for the middle and upper class it’s a measly 41%.(embed: https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/articles-and-news/2019/12/survey-shows-starkly-different-life-experience-for-lower-and-middle-income-adults.html)

With such a large chunk of our population showing apathy towards those who require empathy, it’s no wonder that we have massive systemic problems in the workplace. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing workers to take leaves of absence or stay at work without hazard pay. These conditions are finally shining a light on how unbalanced the work culture in America really is.

America’s workforce is conditioned to ignore the safety of their co-workers and clients. According to research firm Robert Half, 90 percent of Americans go to work sick. That’s 141 million Americans. This is partly due to necessity in the case of people who live paycheck to paycheck, but it is also due to a lack of paid sick leave.

About 3 out of every 4 full-time workers have some measure of paid sick leave, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Unfortunately, the conditions that need to be met for that time vary from strict to extremely strict. Only eight states have laws that require paid sick leave to be mandatory for employees. Other than those states, employers can set whatever guidelines they want for sick leave qualification and compensation. 

During this pandemic, people who can’t work from home are forced to show up sick. When the safety of vulnerable Americans depends on our response, it seems incredibly irresponsible of employers to not have a system in place that protects them.

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