Celina Alvarez loved working at her Corona, Queens cooking job at Taqueria El Idolo but when she discovered she had a serious heart condition, she never realized the return of her good health would cost her the job she loved. Alvarez spent five days in the hospital and was ordered to spend 15 days on complete rest. She was finally able to return to work but the manager informed her there was no work available for her any longer.
The fired worker was part of a rally held in support of paid sick days outside of the restaurant. Several politicians were also on hand to show their support. In New York City, it is estimated that over one million workers especially in the food, retail, and healthcare industries do not receive any pay when they call in sick. Additionally, such as in the Alvarez situation, many workers are also fired for call offs.
Statistically, 64% of low-income workers were not eligible to receive sick pay in 2011. Hispanic workers in that category were an increased statistic at 76%. Low-income workers are at high risk for financial instability if they take necessary sick leave which also has a serious impact on their families as well as the public.
Employees included in the statistics are typically parents of public school children. In the event a child becomes sick, parents need to stay home to provide care. Without having access to paid sick days, these families lose income and risk losing their jobs. Workers face having to decide which is more important – their health and the health of their families or earning a living.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) proposed the Paid Sick Days Act in 2009 and 2010 and is encouraging the City Council to pass the measure as soon as possible to protect sick workers. New York mayor Bloomberg has threatened to veto the measure but the legislation is supported heavily with enough sponsors to override a mayoral veto.