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  • Ari Goldfarb

Paid Sick Leave

In March Republicans blocked legislation that would aid in securing sick leave for Americans effected by Coronavirus.[1]Currently over 32 million Americans have no paid sick leave. That percentage grows as you shift the perspective to low wage work.[2]The gig economy, which offered flexibility in the past could now become one culprit for disease spread for individuals who rely on it for a sizable portion of their income. Any day a driver does not work is a day that driver is not compensated. So even as World Health Organization calls for social distancing, many Americans are forced to not only continue going to work, but continue close-quarter interaction.


According to KUOW a full-time Uber and Lyft driver can carry 20 passengers a day.[3]That’s 20 fares in a closed space with a stranger. The issue is, the service is still necessary and the drivers rely on the flexible hours of the gig economy to work. Since they usually are not employees they do not receive traditional benefits. So even as the numbers of infected rise, workers have to ask if they can afford to take time off. According to Yahoo Finance, in 2019, well over half of Americans have less than $1000 in savings, which means a sizable portion of the population cannot afford to take extended time off while the virus spreads.[4]


Gig jobs are rarely an individual’s sole source of employment. In 2018 the Economic policy institute published around 12.5% drive Uber or Lyft full time, which means these individuals are either supplementing necessary income by driving part-time or relying on Uber for their savings. Either way, they are not earning enough from their primary occupation: “30% of workers in the lowest 10% of wages have access to paid sick days, while the same is true of 93% of workers in the highest 10% of wages.”[5]Those who have the means to rely on their savings also have paid sick leave while those who rely on second jobs do not. Individuals currently working multiple part-time jobs, many of these jobs in the service industry, will have to continue going to work where they most likely handle food, or clothing, in close proximity to customers and coworkers.


One undeniable way to reduce the spread of airborne disease is to reduce the number of interactions with others and our current sick pay structure is proving not to be sustainable during a time of crisis.


[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/as-coronavirus-spreads-both-trump-and-democrats-call-for-paid-sick-leave-2020-03-12 [2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/03/09/coronavirus-paid-sick-leave-apple-olive-garden/5006181002/ [3] https://www.kuow.org/stories/uber-and-lyft-drivers-struggle-to-stay-safe-from-coronavirus [4] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/58-americans-less-1-000-090000503.html [5] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/its-a-very-unfortunate-conundrum-as-coronavirus-spreads-the-cdc-urges-sick-workers-to-stay-home-but-what-if-you-dont-get-paid-sick-leave-2020-03-02?mod=article_inline

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