One of the delights of an early November election is volunteering for a campaign on Halloween. When I arrived at the Campaign for a Healthy Denver headquarters today, a large group of volunteers were already there in their paid sick days themed costumes. There were doctors and nurses in scrubs and surgical masks, patients who looked like they’d come straight from a hospital bed (one man was even on crutches), under-the-weather cooks and servers, a sick teacher and, of course, Sick Rick the giant germ himself. We all headed out to various neighborhoods around the city, to make one last push for Initiative 300 before Election Day tomorrow.
As I traveled around West Denver later in the day, I saw street after street filled with parents taking their kids trick-or-treating. Many of these parents must have made a special effort to get home early in order to take their kids out before nightfall. I couldn’t help but think how lucky they must be to have employers who understand the importance of managing both work and family responsibilities. They’re probably lucky enough to earn paid sick time — for those times when caring for children isn’t as fun as trick-or-treating, but a matter of basic health.
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Denver parents and their children aren’t so lucky. In these families, kids not only miss out on trick-or-treating as a family, but also time at home and doctor’s appointments when they’re sick, preventive care when they’re healthy, and an illness-free school environment… all because their parents aren’t able to earn paid sick days. On a holiday that is at its core about family togetherness, this is a haunting thought.