How I got paid sick days

out-sickThe following is a guest post written by local Burger King worker Victor:

My name is Victor and I work at Burger King. Recently, my coworkers and I demanded paid sick days (something we’ve had a legal right to since 2012), and got them. I’d like to share my story and encourage other worker out there to stand up for themselves, and their fellow workers.

I first learned about paid sick days at a meeting for the ‘fight for 15’ campaign. A group of fast food workers had gathered to talk about going on strike for a day to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union. I was interested in this campaign because I know that each individual fast food worker feels powerless and alone. But when we come together and share our experiences, we often find out we’re all going through the same thing, and we can do something about it. That was exactly how my coworkers and I got paid sick days: as a united group.

At this meeting, I was handed a flyer that said “Paid Sick Days Rights” and explained the basics of Connecticut’s paid sick day program. I learned that my coworkers and I were eligible for paid sick days beginning on January 1st of 2012, but weren’t getting them over a year later. I learned that most of my coworkers worked over 10 hours a week on average and qualified to earn and take paid sick time off. I learned that I and my coworkers could use that paid sick time to care for ourselves, or an ill family member.

The more I learned about the law, the more I was convinced that we deserved paid sick days. Not just because it is the law, but because it also makes sense. Until recently, when we got sick (and we all get sick now and then) we would have to go to work anyway because we couldn’t afford to lose the paycheck. Cooking and serving food is demanding, physical work with unpredictable and irregular hours. Not ideal conditions to recover from a sickness.  Going to work sick also meant possibly getting our coworkers and our customers sick. It just wasn’t a good situation.

So after I learned that we should be getting paid sick days, I started talking to my coworkers. They all agreed that it was something we should be getting. So together we went to the manager of our store and demanded the paid sick time we had earned under the law. And it worked! Now the workers at my Burger King don’t have to choose between their health and their jobs.

To all those of you working in the service industry, I want to encourage you to learn more about the state’s paid sick days rules. Think about how much easier it would make your life if you could take a day off to rest and recover from a nasty cold, or take your child to the doctor without worrying about the wages it will cost you. Find out if you and your coworkers qualify for paid sick days, and if you do, make sure you can take them because you earned them.