Last Thursday, I was offended by opposition testimony to paid sick leave. As a young adult, I worked hard to pay my bills and raise my son, struggling with growing debt. For most of my life, I worked in the food service industry. If I got sick, a shift was lost or I could trade shifts with a co-worker. Shift trades were my responsibility and hard to come by.
This put me in a cycle of poverty for nearly two decades. I couldn’t make ends meet and put my groceries on credit cards. In 2005, I filed for bankruptcy. I was 34 years old and buried in debt from student loans and credit cards. Bankruptcy was really my only way out, yet it carries a lot of shame and indignity, on top of the resignation of knowing you’ll likely never have a shot for things like a house in the future.
Do I think that if all businesses operated on a level playing field by providing guaranteed paid sick leave, then it would’ve cured my economic disparity? No, but it certainly would have helped. Diving deeper into debt because of a few lost hours is ridiculous. I really have a hard time understanding why this basic right is even in dispute. Whether you have paid sick leave or not, I urge all citizens of conscience to reach out now, because we all are affected by the lack of paid sick leave, and we’ve waited long enough for work with dignity.