How do you feel about going into a restaurant or fast food place and being served by someone who is obviously ill? How would you feel if they were sick but you couldn’t tell just by looking or their behavior? How do you feel about your child being served by someone sick? What if it is another kind of retailer or an office you work in?
It’s important to consider this because not every employer provides paid sick leave and that encourages people who are paid at or near minimum wage to work even when sick. We all understand that many illnesses like the flu are easily transmitted from one person to another and we even have a word for an action taken to stop the spread of especially virulent strains, that word is quarantine. If you’re ill and don’t have some overwhelming reason to be out and about most people will self-quarantine just because they don’t feel like doing anything other than staying home in bed or on the sofa.
Low income folks without paid sick leave often are compelled to work even when quite ill by the need to make the rent or buy groceries for their family. Instead of self-quarantining they then interact with dozens of people and run the risk of infecting some of them. Many businesses recognize that having sick people at work just makes it more likely for other members of the staff to become sick as well and therefore offer paid sick leave.
In an effort to address the health concerns of the public who may shop at or otherwise visit locations where the employer encourages ill staff to work the cities of Austin has passed a paid sick leave ordinance. In San Antonio citizens have gathered 140,000 signatures on a petition to get a proposition to create a paid sick leave ordinance on the November ballot.
So far this seems quite reasonable but our Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton (R), claims the Texas Minimum Wage Act preempts cities from enacting a paid sick leave ordinance. I’ve read the legislation, nowhere in it does it even mention sick leave. AG Paxton isn’t the only one on this crazy horse, our state senator, Donna Campbell (R), sent the mayor of San Antonio a letter urging him to block such an ordinance on the grounds that employers don’t like it. According to her letter some members of the business community have taken exception to the proposition on the grounds that it will cause them to lose business opportunities. This is typical Republican logic, make poor, sick people work until they drop and the heck with the health consequences for everyone else because “job creators” need every penny.
Sen. Campbell and AG Paxton just don’t get that employers aren’t job creators, customers are, and when you sicken your customers and your other employees you’re really just hurting your own bottom line. Worse they don’t care about the public health issues created by forcefully encouraging sick people to expose themselves to the general public. Given that Campbell is an emergency room doctor you’d think she’d know better but as in other cases in the past Campbell has let her raging right wing agenda override her professional judgement.
In about 90 days you and I will have an opportunity to send her a resounding message that her failure to look out for the health and well-being of the citizens of her district and all of Texas are unacceptable by electing Steve Kling as our new state senator for Senate District 25.
Published in the Seguin Gazette - August 10, 2018
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