File photo of a Walmart store in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, is cutting paid sick leave for employees receiving Covid-19 from two weeks of leave to one week, according to a new report from Reuters that cites an internal memo sent Tuesday. The change was inspired by the CDC’s updated guidelines that suggest Americans should only isolate for five days after a positive test instead of 10 days.
Walmart, where the average annual salary for full-time workers is just $24,960, introduced a new program in March 2020 that allowed employees to receive up to two weeks of paid leave. Employees who were unable to return to work after two weeks could receive additional pay for up to 26 weeks, according to a Walmart press release from the start of the pandemic.
But the frontline “heroes” who keep the US economy afloat are now expected to take one for the team and only get one week of paid leave if they get Covid-19. Every other rich country in the world has a government mandate paid sick leave. And while some states and cities With laws that grant employees paid sick leave, many Americans have to choose between losing their paycheck or just getting sick.
The CDC last week changed the recommended time of isolation, while US health officials very explicitly said it was to keep society moving. What they meant, of course, was that people in the lowest-paid jobs might have to sacrifice their health to prevent daily life in the US from coming to a standstill.
“Instead of putting people out of action for 10 days, out of work, out of society, if you are infected and without symptoms, you have five days of isolation and then you can go back into society with a constantly worn mask,” Fauci told. CNN on 29 Dec. 2021.
The US reported 704,369 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, bringing the seven-day average to more than 584,000 — a truly staggering number of infections that don’t take home testing for the disease into account. The country also reported 2,113 new deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday.
Walmart is one of the worst companies in the country for wage inequality, according to a recent research noting that CEO C. Douglas McMillon earns about $21 million a year. McMillon enjoys the privilege of teleconferencing his Meetings with President Joe Biden, something his employees can’t do.
Walmart’s headquarters hasn’t responded to a request for comment overnight, but we’ll update this article if we hear anything.
So many online commentators have noticed, if society could really grind to a halt with workers taking only ten days off, there is no doubt that a general strike could work to secure many of the fundamental freedoms American workers currently lack. It is certainly food for thought at a time when companies continue to tell their employees that they are “heroes” while reducing their benefits.
Again, the US is the only wealthy country in the world without paid sick leave imposed by the federal government. And if Americans don’t end up getting it during a global pandemic that has killed more than 831,000, it’s hard to see when they will ever get it.
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