Dispatch from Denver: “Sick Rick”

by | Oct 14, 2011 | Blog Post

“Sick Rick” and an Event at Denver’s Larimer Square

Hello,! I’m Sara, an intern at the National Partnership for Women & Families and a proud volunteer with the Campaign for a Healthy Denver. I arrived in Denver on Tuesday to help spread the word about the need for Initiative 300, the local paid sick days proposal on the city’s November ballot, and thought I would check in about our efforts this week.

As many of you know, local and national business groups have been busy distributing misinformation about the need for paid sick days in Denver. So yesterday, we headed out to Larimer Square in downtown Denver to listen to the stories of some of the workers who are struggling without them. Several food service workers, including bartenders, servers and baristas, shared their personal experiences with having to make the tough choice between going to work sick or staying at home and risking a paycheck or even their jobs.

It was the story of Laura, a barista, that really hit home for me. I work part time as a barista, and I’ll admit that I’ve gone to work sick because I couldn’t find someone to cover my shift or couldn’t afford to lose any income. It’s hard to describe how stuck and helpless you feel when you want to take care of yourself and don’t want to get anyone else sick, but you know you can’t risk losing your job. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for workers with families and children to handle.

Hearing workers describe their experiences and talking about having to interact with customers while ill reminded me of why we’re all here — and why Initiative 300 is so important. Denver workers and their families need to be able to take care of their health and protect the health of the public.

After the workers spoke, we all walked through Larimer Square to help make sure the public knows the risks of restaurant workers going to work sick. We handed out fliers explaining that 74 percent of food service workers in the city don’t have paid sick days. We passed lunchtime diners and passersby, all the time accompanied by our six-foot-tall germ mascot, “Sick Rick.” Sick Rick was definitely the star of the show. As he “sneezed” silly string out of his nose and bounced around from person to person, you couldn’t help but think about the spread of real illnesses. It was a fun spectacle that drew attention to one of the many reasons why Denver needs paid sick days and Initiative 300.

It has been a busy few days so far, and I know we’re just getting started. I’ll check back again soon!