With hundreds of schools closed because of the
flu virus, parents across the nation have found themselves in a bind. Most parents work–just three children in ten have a stay-at-home parent–and many do not have the right to paid sick days. This includes nearly half of all workers–59 million people–and 86 percent of food service workers. Workers without job-protected paid sick days know that taking time off could put their jobs at risk–and that’s not a risk many can afford to take in this dismal economic climate. Yet we keep hearing that if people don’t feel well, they shouldn’t go out and potentially give others H1N1.
In the immediate wake of the swine flu outbreak,
was slow to acknowledge this problem, and he only requested that parents and businesses think about “contingency plans” if kids get sick and must stay home. Then on May 2, in his weekly address, he urged employers to “allow infected employees to take as many sick days as necessary.” It is hoped that employers will do the right thing and pay workers who are out sick as a result of the flu. But there’s no penalty for those who choose not to pay workers in this situation, or for those who refuse workers any time off at all.
That’s why the Obama administration and Congress should go beyond encouraging words and require employers to provide job-protected paid sick days. A good place to start is the Healthy Families Act. Representative
plans to reintroduce this legislation in May. The bill would guarantee that workers can earn up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member. That’s the kind of response this incipient pandemic calls for. HEATHER BOUSHEY
SEEGER AT 90:
“You outlasted the bastards, man,”
said as the crowd roared. That was my favorite line at the rollicking concert celebrating
‘s 90th birthday. There were other uplifting, astonishing moments during the five-hour concert May 3 at Madison Square Garden, which Seeger only OK’d because it raised funds for
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
— a nonprofit he started in 1969 to clean up his beloved, polluted Hudson River.
Fifteen thousand people of all ages danced, clapped and sang along as Seeger did a soaring version of “Amazing Grace” and the saintly-looking
sang “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
entranced with her reading of a poem for peace written by Seeger’s uncle. In between, a startlingly youthful
recounted correspondence she’d had with Seeger as a young folk singer;
teamed up on “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”; and
offered up “If I Had a Hammer.”
Toward the end, Springsteen announced to the crowd, “Pete’s gonna come out…. He’s gonna look like your granddad if your granddad could kick your ass.” Seeger looked all of 25–of strong backbone and spirit and moxie and with keen eyes, which are the stronger for having seen the best, and the worst, of our country’s history. As Springsteen said, Pete has a “stubborn, nasty, defiant optimism”; he’s like “the stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.” Springsteen also talked about growing up in a town that endured race riots. He said Seeger transformed “This Land Is Your Land” from a labor anthem to a civil rights anthem, and he described preparing for their duet of the song at
‘s inauguration. Seeger said to him then, “I know I want to sing all the verses, all the ones that Woody wrote, even the two that usually get left out.”
“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me/Sign was painted, it said private property/But on the back side it didn’t say nothing/That side was made for you and me.” It seemed that there was enough humanity in that one hall to fill all of the nation with amazing grace. As New Jersey’s and the nation’s bard summed it up: “Pete sings all the verses, all the time, especially the ones we’d like to leave out of our history as a people.” KATRINA vanden HEUVEL