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Alma’s Story

May 10, 2013

AlmaAlma is a mom of three and caretaker for her mother, and supports her family by waitressing in a small Tacoma-area restaurant.

One of Alma’s biggest concerns is that she or a family member will get sick. She has no paid days off, and her employer has warned the staff that if they miss work due to health issues, they will be fired.

In the seven years Alma has worked at the restaurant, she has only left work once. On that day, her 13-year-old daughter had a serious asthma attack. Alma rushed to the hospital with her daughter, then quickly returned to her job. With no one available to watch her, Alma’s daughter waited outside in the car while Alma finished her shift. Following the incident, Alma’s boss threatened to fire her if she ever left work again during her shift.

Her daughter’s unpredictable asthma isn’t Alma’s only concern. Alma also provides care for her mother who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Alma worries what will happen if there is an emergency when she is at work, and wonders who will make decisions about her mother’s health.

With so much family responsibility, Alma never considers calling in sick for her own illness. She admits the pressure from her boss to work through illness directly impacts her and her co-workers: “We don’t call in sick. Nobody has ever called in unless they were in the hospital”.

Unfortunately, Alma’s story isn’t unique. In Tacoma, 41,000 workers just like Alma have no paid sick leave, and can’t afford to call in sick for fear of missing a paycheck or losing their job. With paid sick days, Alma would be able to care for her daughter when she is sick, and worry less about her mother when she is at work.

Alma says of paid sick days: “Workers are human. We are people too, and we have the right to get sick and be able to heal and get better at home. We have the right to care for our family when they get sick, too.”

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