This week, Republican Congressman Matt Gatez (FL) decided to self-quarantine after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for a novel coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
But Gaetz’s decision to take time away from his job at Congress without the fear of losing pay or being fired is a right few Americans share. In fact, Gaetz voted to prohibit Florida residents from sharing that right.
The lawmaker has since tested negative for the virus but is continuing to self-quarantine “in an abundance of caution.” Members of Congress get paid a salary of $174,000 or more no matter what. They do not have to vote or be present in D.C., and Gaetz has missed votes all week.
Despite the national push for Americans to practice social distancing to curb spread of the coronavirus, many workers do not have the option to take paid sick leave or work remotely, and must continue to travel to work.
Workers in many industrialized countries have paid sick leave, a right that has been opposed by Republicans and business interests in the U.S. for decades.
Over the last 10 years, many Americans have in fact lost the right for paid sick leave as corporate interests groups have pushed to roll back the right of local governments to enact paid sick leave policies.
Although some large American employers have announced plans to voluntarily extend some paid sick leave policies to workers, the crisis around the novel coronavirus has forced the issue back into the national spotlight.
Earlier this week, congressional Democrats unveiled federal legislation to combat the spread of the virus. The bill includes expanded food assistance, free lab testing for the coronavirus, extended unemployment benefits, and paid sick leave.
Yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) vigorously pushed back, highlighting paid sick leave as a key provision his caucus would oppose. The bill, McCarthy said at a press conference, “forces permanent paid sick leave for all business without exemptions and no sunsets.”
The GOP stance, notably, reflects the demands of the most powerful business lobby in Washington, D.C.: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents the largest employers in America.
By the way, how did Matt Gaetz get a coronavirus test so quickly when the rest of Americans can’t?
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