Following up on my earlier post, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) announced this week his plans to introduce emergency legislation that will guarantee paid sick days for those who are infected by the H1N1 virus.
In a statement, Sen. Dodd indicated that this issue required immediate action:
“This isn’t just a workers’ rights issue – it’s a public health emergency. Families shouldn’t have to choose between staying healthy and making ends meet,” said Dodd. “But if staying home means you don’t get paid, that’s an impossibility, especially for families struggling to make ends meet in this tough economy.”
“Workers should have paid sick leave as a matter of basic fairness,” Dodd continued. “But now sick leave is a matter of keeping Americans safe from this pandemic – and from the next one, whatever it may be.”
The proposal is likely to mirror similar measures introduced in the House — either on an emergency or regular basis — by several Representatives including Connecticut’s Rosa DeLauro who introduced the Healthy Families Act back in May.
As a I said before, there are legitimate arguments both before and against paid sick leave bills in general.
But it seems a dangerous road to go down to single out the H1N1 flu as the need for emergency legislation on the subject. After all, the mortality rate for adults for the swine flu appears to be no higher than for seasonal flu. There are also illnesses that are far more severe that would be left out of such a measure; why should we single out H1N1 — particularly because we might be starting to plateau on the numbers of cases in this wave?
The paid sick leave measure can and should be debated on its own merits; tying it to an illness only seems to make an important measure feel like a political move.