Brett Wilkins Pandemic Worker's Rights

Calls for Paid Leave Grow as Workers Face ‘Vicious Cycle’: Their Jobs or COVID Safety

Many workers who do not paid sick face the choice of staying home without pay and getting written up, or going to work while contagious.
A waiter serves food to customers dining indoors at Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams

As U.S. workers ill with Covid-19 during the Omicron surge face the stark choice of staying home without pay at the risk of losing their jobs or reporting to work and possibly infecting colleagues and customers, progressives on Monday renewed calls for the implementation of paid sick leave at the national level.

“In the midst of a horrific pandemic, two-thirds of low-wage workers still lack access to paid sick leave. That is barbaric,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted.

“We must guarantee that all workers have a right to paid sick leave,” he added.

According to a report published Monday by Popular Information and the advocacy group More Perfect Union, workers at Red Lobster, the seafood restaurant chain owned by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, are being forced to report for work under threat of reprimands that could lead to termination.

The report states that:

James Swartz worked as a bartender at a Pennsylvania Red Lobster for a year-and-a-half starting in December 2019. He was paid $3.50 per hour, plus tips. In an interview, Swartz said when he developed Covid symptoms and told management he was not coming in for his weekend shifts, he was subjected to “threats.” Red Lobster management told Swartz that he “needed to come in for work” and if he didn’t show up or find another way to cover the shift he would “get written up.”

Another Red Lobster employee who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution told The Columbus Dispatch that “we don’t have sick days and yes, I go into work when I’m sick. If we call off, we get written up.”

The worker said they would be fired after four write-ups.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told the Associated Press. “As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick.”

One New Mexico worker, who also did not want to be identified, told the APthat they took time off to get tested for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms of the illness.

“I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers,” the worker—who lost $160 per day off—said. “Now I wish I just would’ve gone to work and not said anything.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) echoed the sentiments of many progressives when she tweeted Monday that “there’s a simple answer” to these workers’ dilemma: “Paid leave.”

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is staff writer for Common Dreams.


  1. These companies will write up and fire employees for being late or missing time even if paid leave is provided. These slave laborers provide their revenue and profit, and can only do that when they’re on the job.

    It’s just my personal opinion, but I fail to see the need for any restaurants at all. Most major grocery chains have fabulous deli departments offering at a fraction of the cost. Home cooked meals have always been much better quality.

    1. Yikes! Certain rocks people do crawl out of.

      Restaurants and food trucks and markets and food stalls, all of that, goes back to, well, right when we stopped being hunters and gatherers.

      Grocery stores? Is that it?

      I do believe you are a Karen Bot. Living in the unreal world.

  2. Up is down, lies are truth, fear is happiness, war is peace, and on and on and on. Look, the system is completely broken, so whack a mole ain’t working. As always, the shekel masters are hard at work in other countries, so the corona crazies will again be outpaced by IMF, World Bank, all the pigs of Capital — we need to do more than just send these 3,700 billionaires packing. More than chiding their Eichmann millionaires and multi-millionaires. Of course, the real prescription to solve this is not allowed on Scheer Post, as the algorithms and word checks would deep six any real discussion of the Malcom X, “by any means necessary” response. You see, the entire Block Chain, CRISPR, universal vax for everything folk, all the MIC and the EdTech and FinTech, all of them, they respond to their lust for more more more with the same Malcolm X statement: “By any means necessary, take every last red cent from the masses, anyway possible, each nanosecond of their pathetic semi-useful waking, sleeping, blinking, eating, breeding, urinating, defecating lives.”

    Here’s old century rules still on hyper-speed:

    On Monday, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez revealed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeks to impose on his country a program of fiscal restrictions as a condition to refinance the payment of debts for over US$56 billion.

    “The IMF statutes establish that this institution must analyze the macroeconomic program that the country proposes. In reality, however, what the IMF Fund tries to do is impose a program on us once again. And we do not agree,” Fernandez explained.

    Currently, there are two macroeconomic programs being discussed: on the one hand, the proposal made by the Fernandez administration, which is oriented to the economic growth of Argentina, and on the other, the IMF program that chooses to demand the adjustment of fiscal resources.

    Since October 2021, Argentina has been trying to reach an “extended facilities agreement” to refinance the debts contracted by the government of Mauricio Macri (2015-2019). According to the 2018 agreement, whereby the IMF offered this South American country a loan of US$56.3 billion, Argentina must pay US$19 billion in 2022, US$19.2 billion in 2023, and US$4.8 billion in 2024.

  3. Twisting around fear and putting people against each other in consecrating the unconditional authority of corporate entities over families torn apart, communities destroyed, and individuals rendered hopeless and hateful is not anything nature meant for us humans.

    We are looking at parasites devouring paralyzed hosts. This is the very essence of an inhumane social formation called capitalism described precisely by Karl Marx. It is revealing that the formation is called “communism” even by those who claim to “resist”.

    Again, the colonized institutions ultimately act as cages for capitalism. They work together to recalibrate the caste system.

    Over and over we’ve been deceived. We are mobilized to play ritual battles on political theaters. We are mobilized to play “activism” on social theaters. We are mobilized to play good citizens on cultural theaters. We are mobilized to fight “others” on colonial theaters of war. As long as we run around within the framework of the oligarchs, we just shift the blame among ourselves and we keep fine tuning the very feudal hierarchy that traps us as expendable beings.

    The wealth and power hoarded by the parasitic minority never belong to them. They are blessings of nature and humanity belonging to the harmony among us. Those oligarchs have only one thing—they are astronomically richer than the rest. They monopolize what belongs to us all in order to domesticate humanity and nature. But life can’t be contained by their primitive cage. So they have been modifying life to fit within the narrowly defined framework of their own kingdom. We became dumber, we are less brave, we are more cynical and hypocritical. None of it is acceptable from any angle from which we look at it. The current social formation is extremely destructive to our species. If we fail to grasp the situation, gene therapy drugs, psychotropic drugs, behavioral conditioning and so on will be fully used to exacerbate the situation, commodifying our minds and bodies as our lives are more and more digitized and financialized. If we become the products to be consumed, we are subjected to planned obsolescence, reduced quality, reduced diversity and so on just like any other items around us. They spread their tentacles in taking over social institutions. They freely attenuate and amplify the roles of institutions in orchestrating the material reality to suit their interests. Again, they paralyze people with illusions, lies, deceptions, drugs, carrot and stick and eat us alive. We do not deserve this parasitic social formation.

    We need a system which firmly ensures that the material reality reflects a harmony of man and nature. For one thing, the ridiculous rituals of corporate politics, corporate slogans for health, and so on have no place in getting us out of this feudalism of money and violence. How can we all step back a little and take a look at what is really going on, calling out the parasites for what they are? How can we recognize that the same colonizers who destroyed countries across the globe have embarked on psychological asymmetrical urban warfare against us? We are told that we are all in this together only to find ourselves shooting each other. We are told to flatten the curve only to see our communities flattened to be swallowed by corporate entities. How can we build our communities with social relations based on our needs? How can we build social institutions which can help us build a social formation that serves us all.

    The parasites devour the hosts because they do not have the ability to engage in the creative process of life. They must lie and deceive to imprison the subject population so that the captive beings are forced to construct the kingdom for the parasites. Parasites are not the all-seeing gods which they present themselves to be. In order to survive and embrace the blessings of the universe as one of the species on our planet, we must recognize this destructive state of being and somehow move beyond it.

    We are hardly the only ones screaming. We are a fraction of a huge momentum of humanity continuing to make a point about our species’ obvious predicaments. The following words came from George L. Jackson shortly before he was murdered in California’s San Quentin Prison (I thank John Steppling for mentioning the quote recently):

    “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”

    George L. Jackson

  4. ‘Your money or your life!’ That’s the forced – and false – choice robber barons are giving captive wage slaves with their covid coup and its disaster capitalism to ‘build back better’ the conditions of our servitude. A catch-22 choice to lead masses into such future as the Great Reset envisions, for example, of proles on UBI, just as long as they maintain adequate social credit scores by submitting to the injection regime of the biosecurity state, remaking human livestock into genetically modified, digitally repurposed machinery for the masters’ 4th industrial revolution.

    Break their spells and incantations of deadly disease and other life-and-death crisis like climate change, manufactured mythology of (their) science to hold a gun to the head of humanity. There is no “horrific pandemic,” only a false flag flu stoking fear to cover for a 99.9% survival rate so the .1% can leverage us into a new abnormal world order under technocratic totalitarianism.

    And break the bonds of their manufactured, catch-22 ‘left’ and ‘right’ alternatives. Like that here of useful covidiots still perpetuating propaganda and paranoia over a phantom plague, who conceive of social justice as a few more crumbs of support in adjusting us to the real plague of corruption and criminality that has taken over the world.

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