Workers Vanguard No. 947

20 November 2009


On Paid Sick Leave


14 November 2009

Dear Editor,

In addition to demanding free quality health care for all (including all immigrants) as we do in “For Socialized Medicine,” (Workers Vanguard No. 943, 25 September), we have to make it unambiguously clear that we support unconditional, unlimited paid sick leave for all workers at full (100%) pay, beginning with day one of employment. The same principle applies to the unemployed: They should get full union-scale pay and benefits, including when they are sick and cannot look for work. The USA is the only advanced capitalist country without a national health care or health insurance program; it is also the only one without paid leave guaranteed by national legislation. In Germany, for example, every employee is entitled to 100% of their salary for the first six weeks of sick leave, paid by the employer, starting day one of employment! After six weeks the insurance provider pays the sick leave called Krankengeld.

In the United States in contrast, sick pay, even in better union contracts, is pathetically short, underpaid and often only available after a probationary period. For longer illnesses workers must pay out-of-pocket for expensive, long-term disability insurance. There is enormous pressure for workers to drag their sick carcasses to work, even with contagious infections like the flu, or face discipline including firing for “excessive” sick leave. In turn, managers and supervisors are rewarded with bonuses and raises for “excellent” attendance records.

How many industrial accidents and how many of the 36,000 flu-related deaths a year in the U.S. might be preventable with guaranteed paid sick leave. The absence of such a national policy is catastrophic in the face of a pandemic such as we are facing now. Indispensible to the demand for Free Quality Health Care is: Unconditional, Unlimited, Paid Sick Leave for All Workers and the Unemployed!

Reuben S.