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Can't Afford to Get Sick

Paid sick days are just popping up all over the agenda it appears. Writers at The Nation say it is the #2 economic justice issue on the progressive agenda, after raising the minimum wage. The New York Times previews the fights likely to play out in Maine, Maryland, Montana, and elsewhere. The National Federation of Independent Business is predicting a filibuster if the bill moves forward. Why? Because of a reflexive fighting of anything that tells business to behave more responsibly. Here are the facts when it comes to paid sick days. Most low wage workers don't have any paid sick days. When they get ill, they have two choices -- give up needed income or go to work sick. When these people go to work, they put their co-workers and others at risk. Think of line cooks, servers, day care workers, and other people who work retail or in entry level positions -- these workers often come into contact with hundreds or thousands of other people over the course of a day. The advantage, of course, to showing up is that the boss doesn't have to scrap to find a replacement on short notice. The downside is that the risk of spreading a disease heightens and productivity suffers massively, as the Boston Globe noted last year. And with rising concerns over an eventual global flu epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are going so far as to recommend that companies think about the economics of the situation. As Third Wayers and some economists might say, we need to think about the incentives. And the incentives right now are for sick people to show up to work. It's time to change the incentives. If they are going to filibuster it at the federal level, we'll just have to do it in the states.