Got Swine Flu? Call a Doctor. Then Call a Politician.

Categories: Politics
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Those of a certain age may remember the wonderful Chris Guest-Billy Crystal sketches from Saturday Night Live in which Willie and Frankie, a pair of none-too-bright New York City characters who enjoyed nothing more than comparing notes of the twisted, masochistic self-mutilation they needlessly endured:

Frankie: Boy. You wanna talk about some pain? I bought one o' them linoleum knives the other day, you know?

Willie: With the double edge?

Frankie: Right.

Willie: Yeah?

Frankie: So, I go home, you know, and I spread my toes apart and I just start sawing, back and forth and back and forth, you know?

Willie: Mm hmm.

Frankie: And I take a little thing o' Tabasco sauce, you know?

Willie: Yeah.

Frankie: And just dump it on there. Talk about a hotfoot, mister! Boy, that was rough.

So, along those lines, if Swine Flu forced you to take unpaid time off of work -- or if you went to work and exposed all your colleagues -- Assemblywoman Fiona Ma wants your horror stories.

Ma has a bill currently stalled in the appropriations committee that would mandate the state allow employees at companies of 10 workers or more to accrue up to nine paid days off and those who work for smaller organizations to amass up to five. San Francisco incidentally, already sports mandatory paid sick days thanks to a 2004 ballot measure.

Ma's bill -- AB 1000 -- is in limbo, she says, largely because county in-home care workers currently do not receive paid sick days. "To allow them to have paid sick days would be, like, millions of dollars," says Ma. "Right now the state is strapped for cash." (now that's an understatement worthy of Frankie or Willie).

"Forty percent of the workforce do not have paid sick days. So here's the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] recommending if people feel sick and have symptoms, they should stay home. What happens if you cant?" continues Ma. "Do you go in and infect everyone else?"

Rather than just point out Catch-22 situations like the above, Ma hopes, in a week's time, to be armed with those names politicians like to use to personify abstract issues.

Ma hopes that even the appropriations committee will have heartstrings to tug. And if people do have stories about being unable to take time away from work, she figures she'll have to be the one to tell her colleagues about it. It's a safe bet the actual folks with the tales to tell won't be able to finagle a day off.

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