Sometimes, being mean to people can turn around and bite you on the butt — even if you're a corporation and, physiologically speaking, have no butt.
One of the meanest and stingiest workplace policies is the denial of paid sick days for employees — a reality faced by almost 40 percent of private sector workers. These people are mostly in lower-wage jobs and cannot afford to miss even a single day's pay. So, the result of the corporate minginess is that tens of millions of coughing, wheezing, sneezing, vomiting employees are on the job, rather than calling in sick and staying home. These include food handlers, health care workers and others who deal directly with the public.
While this corporate approach saves money for employers, ill workers pay a heavy price — and their contagious illnesses can easily spread to co-workers and customers. This has always been a public health problem, but with a swine flu pandemic sweeping our country, it has become a national health threat.
In addition to workers who get no paid sick days, millions more are employed by such outfits as Wal-Mart that aggressively discourage any use of the benefit. This retailing behemoth runs a "Points System" — use one sick day, and you get one demerit; accumulate five or more, and you can be fired.
This same minginess is now biting corporate butts. Because of swine flu, executives are demanding that ill employees stay home, yet workers get no pay or get demerits if they do stay home, so they don't. Instead, they're at work, greeting customers with: "May I [cough-cough] help you [cough-cough]?"
Meanwhile, these same companies are fighting a legislative requirement to provide a mere seven paid sick days a year. The new company slogan could be: "Wal-Mart — Spreading Swine Flu, One Customer at a Time."
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.
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