by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Working Sick, Touching Food, Fearing for Their Jobs
Queens restaurant workers Rocio Loyola and Celina Alvarez each log more than 70 hours a week, prepping food. They work in sickness and in health, because, like many New Yorkers, have no paid sick days:
Now and then Ms. Loyola, 35, wears down and the chill of flu runs through her body, and she vomits in the employees’ bathroom. And, she says, her boss shakes his head and warns: You go home, you’re fired.
As for Ms. Alvarez, 48, some months ago her heart throbbed, her arms and chest heavy with ache.
On her single day off she walked into a clinic, and a doctor listened through his stethoscope and told her: Your heart is in bad shape. He checked her into the hospital.
A few days later, she was discharged and walked 15 blocks to beg her employer for her job back. She said he was disgusted: You’re old and you’re sick. With that, she said, he sent her back to chop in a basement filled with two inches of gray water. [NYT]
Between 700,000 and 1.2 million New Yorkers have no paid time off for illness. City Council has discussed proposals to mandate sick leave for all businesses with more than five employees, but so far, no laws have been passed. That's partly because City Hall has been fighting dirty:
Compromise is no option. When the leaders of Chambers of Commerce in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn sounded dangerously amenable to a deal, the mayor’s top aides set straight these weak-kneed sorts.
When more than 100 owners of small businesses signed a petition urging the City Council to pass sick-days legislation, some sharp-eyed fellow working against the bill happened to notice that a few of these owners had city tax liens.
Voilà! The New York Post published an article proclaiming: “They want more government mandates but can’t even pay their taxes.” [NYT]
Mayor Bloomberg was so concerned about the heart health of New Yorkers that he banned toxic transfats. Yet, he's not willing to take action to protect workers like Ms. Alvarez and Ms. Loyola, or the customers who eat the food they prepare.
[Photo credit: Jpellgen, Creative Commons.]