On Friday, March 22nd, the City Council will hold another hearing on the Paid Sick Leave Bill. This bill would provide five days of paid sick leave to employees of businesses with five or more workers. It’s opposed by the nightlife and restaurant industry and my friends at the NYC Hospitality Alliance (NYCHA). The law would be enforced by the Department of Health, which the NYCHA says is ill-equipped to do so. The Alliance believes the bill might result in fines and lawsuits and baseless claims, legal fees, etc. The Alliance supports the rights of employees to take time off without fear of losing their jobs, though I have heard about covering shifts and all sorts of what I consider evasive rhetoric.
The bottom line is that the industry doesn’t want to pay a line cook or a waitron or a host who has worked for them for a reasonable length of time for time needed off. They use phrases like "no questions asked" to denigrate an employee’s need to take time off. That phrase means a "sick" employee might have to prove they are sick via a doctor’s note or such. With many in the business without health insurance benefits, that would be massively discouraging. The industry is supported by poor people working in kitchens and at bars who make a living wage… sometimes. The industry consists of much wealthier employers who can afford doctor visits and health insurance and live in nice apartments, drive fast cars, and enjoy a ton of etceteras. The patrons invariably have jobs that allow them sick days and weeks of paid vacations and can afford to eat out in restaurants.
I say FUCK YOU TO THE INDUSTRY. Give the workers the paid sick leave …period. How does a person who has worked for years in an established restaurant not deserve a few days off when they have a flu? I don’t want a person with the flu coming to work and serving or preparing food because they can’t afford to lose their shift pay. That is why I believe that the Department of Health is the right agency to enforce this. I don’t believe five days is enough. The masters of the industry are able to pay for lawyers and lobbyists and are organized against labor. They refer to it in their propaganda as PAID DAYS OFF. Even if you buy into that little tweak of the wording of the bill, from Paid Sick Days to Paid Days Off, I say everyone deserves some paid days off. An accountant, a secretary, a writer, and even the president of the US of A deserves a few paid days off. Baseball players get them, cops and firemen.
This is not even that. It isn’t a paid day off bill, but a paid sick leave bill. It’s five days in a year. In this climate of ours with snow and rain and vast changes in temperature, who doesn’t get sick five days in a year? A great deal of the industry works quietly thankful for their jobs, hopeful that they won’t get fired and have to scramble for other work. It’s seven days a week with an hour commute to an apartment far away which they share with five other dudes just like them. If at the end of the month they save their money, they get to send it back to their homeland where it feeds a family they rarely – if ever – see.
Sure, waitrons and chefs and others make some loot, but the workers in the trenches are dirt poor and deserve more. I hope the City Council ignores the objections of the not-poor-at-all owners to the long-overdue Paid Sick Leave Bill which benefits the poor people who toil for the wealthy owners. I’m going out to buy me a Che t-shirt right now.
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