Saturday, February 25, 2006

Workers' Rights

Being a progressively mined guy, I have this silly, antiquated notion of workers' rights. Now, I know what you're thinking.

"Workers' rights, bah! Those damn pinko commies. Don't they know their history? Marxism failed."

Slow down. I'm not going to sit here and rail about the abomination of capitalism while praising the glory and insight of dear sweet Karl Marx as we dirty liberals do according to the fanatical ravings of Ann Coulter. Be that as it may, corporations have a responsibility to both society and their employees. In this country, any entrepreneur or corporation has the express right to pursue wealth. However, when that entity's pursuit of wealth begins to detrimentally effect its workers or the world in which we live, the excess of the entrepreneur/corporation must be check for the good of us all. For example, when Wal-Mart violates child labor laws or provides its work force with poor health care, the state files suit or legislates that Wal-mart must improve its workers' rights. Now, I'm not writing this post to complain about Wal-Mart (although, I certainly have plenty of issues with that place).

Today's displeasure is directed at one of my employers (while taking this year off before graduate school I am working in two restaurants--as an aside, a living wage is a whole other issue). As I mentioned in my last post, I have been sick for the past several days. Last night, I went to work despite having received antibiotics and a codeine cough syrup from my doctor that morning--what can I say, I'm a dedicated employee. I probably should have called in sick yesterday but didn't want to hear the manager complain. Frankly, the management is not very receptive to hearing about sick employees, and I can understand their dismay. In a college town, where unreliable employees call in "sick" so that they can attend a party or study for an exam, why not be a little skeptical?

However, I am not an unreliable student employee. I am an honest person and hard worker. I received an oustanding employee review and have never been reprimanded. Furthermore, in the seven months that I've worked at this establishment I have never called in sick. To be completely honest, a few weeks ago I broke my glasses--without which I cannot see--and missed two hours of a shift while scrambling to find an optometrist appointment that morning. I didn't think it unreasonable to miss a shift due to blindness, however management disagreed.

As of last night, I felt crummy, but still intended to show up for my 3:00 shift today. When I awoke at 11:30 am (I got home from work at midnight last night, so I went to bed late), I could barely speak. My voice was--and remains--so hoarse that I physically could not have waited tables tonight. If you have ever seen American Splendor, I sound like Harvey Pekar. When I contacted the restaurant at noon, the manager was annoyed that I had not called earlier. She explained that there was a party of 50 coming in tonight and that she needed enough servers to cover it. After apologizing for circumstances outside my control (which infuriated my lovely girlfriend), she told me call other employees to pick up my shift.

Is this the greatest travesty to befall mankind? No. Are there places in the world where an employee would give anything for the opportunities that I have and the fairness with which I am accorded? Of course. But in the United States, employers are supposed to treat their workers fairly. At least they always claim to do so.

What really irks me is that when an honest, responsible employee calls in for a legitimate sick day (the manager could hear my hoarse voice), he deserves the benefit of the doubt and maybe even a "get well soon." If I called in sick all the time, then it's permissible not to trust me, but when I call in sick for the first time ever with an awful cold that was exacerbated by working the night before, cut me some freakin' slack.



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