Tell your lawmaker to support this bill promoting healthy workplaces | Opinion

January 30, 2020 6:30 am

By Maria Donatucci

A potential worldwide pandemic has cities quarantined, travel restricted and people terrified.

But, here in Pennsylvania, in the highly unlikely event the Wuhan coronavirus arrived, someone who caught it would have to choose between protecting the public health or keeping their job.

Here in Pennsylvania, right-wing extremists are fighting for your freedoms:

  • The freedom to eat a hamburger cooked by someone with the flu (or worse) who is too sick to work, but also too broke to be able to afford to take the day off.
  • The freedom to be handed a wad of slightly damp bills as change from a cashier who was up all night with the chills and diarrhea (or worse).
  • The freedom to pass a case of pink eye (or worse) from one child at a day care to themselves and then to your child – and eventually to you.
  • The freedom to potentially get the Wuhan coronavirus if you’re unlucky enough to cross paths with an infected worker who couldn’t stay home.

By preserving Pennsylvania’s antiquated laws, laws that can be traced back to pre-Union days when workers had absolutely no rights and an injured miner or factory worker’s family would be charged for the damage their injuries caused to the company’s machines, we defend this funhouse mirror version of freedom.

Or, we can get real and finally start providing paid sick leave to Pennsylvania’s workers like they do in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. It’s time for the Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act.

The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act would protect sick workers who make the right choice to stay home and get better faster, allowing them to return to the job sooner while they keep the public safe.

The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act protects the rest of the staff, who won’t get infected by a sick person who can’t afford to take time off.

This plan for universal paid family leave in Pa. has bipartisan support. Will it ever become law?

The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act protects the profit margin, because those workers staying home to get better don’t infect an entire store or office of workers and customers. Plus, having a standard law covering the whole state makes it easier on companies with multiple offices, saving them administrative costs.

There’s no logical reason to prevent The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act from becoming a reality in Pennsylvania other than to appease anti-worker special interests. It’s time for us to make the right choice.

The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act would set up standards allowing workers to start accruing sick leave after 30 days on the job at the rate of an hour for every 30 hours worked, with a limit of no more than seven days a year being used. Workers would have to provide written notice to the employer, and of course provide doctor’s notes when they’re available. It’s not just for the employee, either.

Workers could use the time to take care of a spouse, child or parent – because what worker can operate at their peak knowing they have a sick kid at home? Companies who break the rules would face fines, plus other legal penalties.

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So, the next time you’re huddled under a blanket hoping you’ll make it to the bathroom in time and wondering who at the office brought in this week’s virus, remember it doesn’t have to be this way.

The next time you’re watching the news, worried whether it’s safe to go outside, remember, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Please, contact your local lawmaker and demand a vote on H.B. 998, The Healthy Employee, Healthy Workplace Act. The illness you prevent just might be your own.

State Rep. Maria Donatucci, a Democrat, represents the 185th House District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Delaware County. She writes from Harrisburg

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