For God’s Sake, Just Give Workers Paid Time Off To Get Vaccinated!
Vaccine resisters are loud and annoying. We've heard their wacky, medically unsound reasons for refusing to receive the perfectly safe COVID-19 vaccine, and it's hard to have sympathy for them, as their obstinance threatens a return to what passes for normalcy in this country.
However, there are Americans who would like to get vaccinated but haven't because they can't fit it into their schedules. The initial response is annoyance: How do you not find time to take a life-saving vaccine? But let's dig deeper into what's happening.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,888 adults conducted in June, about two out of 10 unvaccinated employees said they'd be more likely to get vaccinated if they received paid time off. This isn't just for the jab itself, which can take about 30 minutes tops if there's no wait. In some states, there's a longer wait for Spice Girls reunion tour tickets. No, the desired time off is also for recovery from possible side effects, which can include tiredness, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Those are harder to manage if your job is in any way physically demanding or customer-facing.
And, yes, when you're struggling to stay afloat, finding time to get vaccinated can feel overwhelming. Daisy Berrospe, who manages a vaccine clinic run by the La Clínica de La Raza nonprofit in Oakland, California, described the medical Sophie's Choice facing low-income workers: "It's a big deal — it's either miss work and get the vaccine, or continue to go to work to keep up with your paycheck."
That includes people like Zachary Livingston, the manager of a Subway in the Denver area.
The 40-year-old said he has been working 60-plus-hour weeks for months — with no bump in pay to his approximately $35,000 a year salary — to cover gaps in the store's schedule as it has struggled to find workers. He'd like to get vaccinated, and believes everyone should get the jab, but said he hasn't had the time or mental space to do it.
"By the time I'm out of work, it's time to go to bed," he said.
You reportedly need to earn at least $62,938 a year, or about $30 an hour, to “comfortably rent" a median one-bedroom apartment in Denver. It doesn't seem like $35,000 a year is even enough for “uncomfortable" rent payments, as it's almost $20,000 less than the living wage in Colorado. Businesses have whined they can't find workers willing to accept their crap wages because of the government largesse, but this hasn't inspired them to treat the employees they do have dramatically better.
We are quick to lecture working people about their responsibility to the community, but the community is usually fine with these people living under train tracks. We also have a responsibility to Subway managers and anyone else who prepares our food or helps make our lives function.
It’s bad enough that you’re not paid enough to survive at most of these jobs and can’t afford a day off. I pulled s… https://t.co/cPTl4W0CN4— Lauren Hough (@Lauren Hough)1582795214.0
Subway is a multi-billion-dollar company. It can probably afford to comp employees time to get vaccinated and even take the next day off to recover. Skeptics might argue this is just an excuse, but businesses can ensure it's not a plausible one. Besides, most vaccine resisters aren't ashamed of their willful ignorance.
Zachary Livingston, the Denver Subway manager, doesn't even have health insurance, despite currently working 60 hours a week. He said he hasn't seen a doctor in years. Maybe Subway customers should pay more than $5 for a footlong sandwich.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh agreed that businesses should give their employees all the time they need to get vaccinated, but Republican policy guy Doug Holtz-Eakin, who led the Congressional Budget Office during the George W. Bush years, remains “skeptical" that paid time off would improve vaccination rates.
"I find that hard to believe," he said. "You have to have a day off somewhere"
No, asshole, there are literally people working multiple jobs seven days a week. They rarely have a day off, and when they do, they might have other obligations, like their kids.
“They've been trying to get the vaccines to people's doors. It does not seem plausible to me that that's the hang-up."
Empathy remains forever elusive for Republicans.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."