The call to keep kids home from school always makes me think about a book I read a few years ago, called Forgotten Families, by Jody Heymann. The author documented the public health threat that emerged after we created "workfare" and parents in low wage jobs are forced to be away from home for upwards of 10 hours a day without enough pay to cover childcare expenses. (She also examines the health problems facing poor children in other countries). She found that an increasing amount of caregiving -- for self, sibling, younger neighbors, cousins, and older people -- is falling to children who are too young for paid work themselves. This means kids as young as 5 are caring for toddlers, or are left home alone for significant chunks of time, or are confined to small spaces if they come with their parents to work (chained to a table kind of small spaces). The book broke my heart, and enraged me. What would it be like to build public policy on as if children really mattered?
The New York times reported that the lack of Paid Sick Days in the U.S. may worsen the H1N1 pandemic. And the U.S. lags so far behind other industrialized countries (and other countries, period) it is clear that paid sick leave is considered a reasonable benefit for working families in the larger world. (Check out this pdf)
Senate President Libby Mitchell put forward an Act to Prevent H1N1, which would provide paid sick leave to a limited number of workers in Maine, while federally the Healthy Families Act lingers.
If you'd like to work on passing a paid sick leave law, contact the
Maine Women's Lobby They are also doing a story collection project:
Have you - or anyone you know - been affected by the H1N1 virus and had to go to work anyway? Or lost pay because you had to stay home?
Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207.622.0851
You can also provide your story online by answering a few questions.