Dispatch from Denver: Sick Rick Goes Viral

by | Oct 24, 2011 | Paid Sick Days

Hi, everyone! I’m Katie, a legal fellow at the National Partnership. I arrived in Denver late last week and have been busy volunteering with the Campaign for a Healthy Denver the past few days. This weekend, I got a chance to interview the campaign’s six-foot-tall mascot, Sick Rick, for YouTube.

Since his debut in downtown Denver, Sick Rick has gained a lot of attention. He symbolizes the germs that spread when the more than 107,000 Denver workers without paid sick days must work while sick. The threat to public health is real, and Sick Rick is helping to raise awareness.

Opponents of paid sick days in Denver have criticized Sick Rick as a political stunt that is hurting businesses. They fail to realize that Sick Rick isn’t the problem — the problem is the failure to adopt workplace policies that allow workers to earn paid sick days, so they can stay home when they are sick. And that’s why we need Initiative 300.

To amplify Sick Rick’s message and explain his role in the campaign for Initiative 300, the Campaign for a Healthy Denver decided to create a video to explain the purpose of the mascot. That’s where I — subtly dubbed “Warbara Balters” for the interview — come in…

In the video, which will be available soon, viewers find out that Sick Rick’s uncle, Big Business, has been wining and dining the germ in Denver. Big Business has apparently facilitated Sick Rick’s introduction to a variety of workers by failing to provide paid sick days. Warbara Balters even offers the germ a chance to respond to scathing accusations that the germ flourishes among Denver’s children because, when working parents don’t have paid sick days, kids are often forced to go to school or day care sick where they can spread illness.

Sick Rick tries to turn the tables and emphasize the campaign’s toll on his own family. It seems his cousin, Cyrus the Virus, was devastated by Seattle’s passage of a paid sick days measure last month. And Sick Rick is too distraught to even discuss the difficulties for a germ living in San Francisco given the city’s progressive paid sick days protections for workers. In his closing plea, the germ says that opposing Initiative 300 is a matter of survival if germs want to thrive — just before spraying a silly-string sneeze all over a disgusted and stunned Warbara Balters.

Overall, the video is an entertaining attempt at explaining the very real consequences when so many Denver workers cannot earn any paid sick days. I’ll check back in soon with a link to the video!

UPDATE: The video is up! Check it out: