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That's the question asked by "Contagion: Not Just A Movie," a new video released by Family Values @ Work as part of a campaign advocating for paid sick leave for workers. The group argues that the spread of diseases in recent years, such as the H1N1 virus, and potential contagious disease outbreaks in the future are greatly sped up by the fact that millions of workers arrive on the job with illnesses they spread to their co-workers because they can't afford to stay home and lose the pay.
According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the occupations most likely to have regular contact with the public—food service and preparation, and personal care and service—are among those least likely to provide paid sick days.
Dr. Robert Drago, research director for IWPR, says:
The fewer the number of workers who are able to stay home when sick, the more likely it is that diseases will spread.
Here are some other facts about paid sick days.
-More than 44 million workers do not have paid sick days.
-Workers earning low-wages are the least likely to have paid sick days. Only 19 percent of low-wage workers have access to paid sick days.
-Many workers with a significant interaction with the public do not have paid sick days. This includes three in four food service workers, three in five personal health care workers and three in four child care workers.
-One in 6 workers have been fired or threatened with being fired for taking time off work to care for a personal or family illness.
Someone is trying to do something about it:
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have introduced the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460 and S. 1152), which would require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide workers with up to seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or a sick child or spouse. There are also state and local efforts underway to win paid sick day laws.