Letter: Vermont Should Approve Paid Sick Days

To the Editor:

As a Vermont resident, former policy-maker and a woman who has worked in restaurant kitchens, I have insight into the importance of paid sick days, having worked in kitchens that both do and do not offer this.

Many of our Vermont neighbors, including many kitchen workers, are paid low wages, and thus can easily get caught in a cycle of poverty. Cooks and dishwashers without paid sick days often go to work when sick because they can’t afford to take an unpaid day off. Elbow-to-elbow working conditions can cause co-workers to fall ill. Additionally, germs can be easily passed to customers eating food prepared by a sick cook.

Cooks who work while sick often wear themselves out and work more slowly, hurting restaurants’ efficiency. In this context it’s easy to understand why there’s so much data nationally in regard to increased efficiency for businesses following passage of paid sick days legislation.

None of our Vermont neighbors should have to choose between their families’ health and paying their bills. Demoralized mothers — low-wage workers are disproportionately women — who are malnourished and unhealthy can pass negative health outcomes to their children, causing stunted development and diminished long-term success.

Until Vermont passes paid sick days legislation that is universal and equitable, these costs will continue to be shifted onto the rest of us. This is why I believe Vermont has a responsibility to pass paid sick days legislation this year.

Bethany Fleishman