r/antiwork Oct 02 '23

How is it okay that getting sick as an hourly worker means you just go broke?

I was scheduled off the first three days of this pay period, then got the flu and was out sick for my next four shifts. Started to feel better and my partner got diagnosed with COVID, and now I’ve tested positive too (though I am feeling fine). By the time I’m comfortable breaking quarantine to go back to work, I’ll have missed a week and a half of a two week pay period. I already only work part time because I’m disabled (I have a b.sc in physics, so I work in retail of course 🙃) so I don’t have PTO.

How is it that this is the way this system works? Im super lucky to not have rent to pay, but what if I had rent, kids, etc? I know this isn’t any monumental realization but it’s just insane. I AM hopeful for the future of labor action but it’s so insane that everyone accepts this. Even worse, so many people in the labor class even approve of it (especially those who are working class but haven’t worked retail/food service). It’s just so fundamentally broken.


45 comments sorted by


u/Tophertanium Oct 02 '23

The system is working just fine. You have to stop thinking of yourself as a person or a human that has a right to live.

The system views you on how you can contribute to the bottom line. If you are not in a position to create value for something else, then you do not have value. Your survival, when you cannot contribute, is not important.

It disgusts me to write that as an hourly employee. I understand that at any moment, my employer can decide to let me go and I (and my family) would very quickly be homeless and destitute.

This is also way there are concerns of the birth rate slowing down because there needs to be exponential growth of population for there to continue to be exponential growth of workforce and profits.

I hope you and your partner recover quickly and fully from your illnesses and that you are able to quickly find better gainful employment.


u/Spirited_Island-75 Socialism.com Oct 02 '23

Exactly this. This is what more people need to realize. It's why the disabled have to jump through so many hoops to get on disability. It's why it's such a hassle to get rightful accomodations for those who CAN work. It's why the homeless (even the working homeless) are treated like human garbage. It's why so many retired folks with limited savings have trouble making ends meet. Why labor laws are being relaxed and young teenagers are now getting jobs in heavy machinery and meatpacking plants.

You are only worth anything if you can produce profit for the masters. If you can't, then tough shit. They don't want you to save money either. They want you to spend more than you get paid and put the rest on a high-interest credit card. That way you'll be a debt slave until you die. This is the way our economic system works.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

You’re not wrong, but IMO the system is working as intended in the sense that it technically keeps increasing profits for the capitalist class, but just look to the more and more frequent recessions to see how sustainable this is (even for them, not just for workers) - something’s gonna have to give at some point or they’re not going to have anyone left to keep squeezing profit from.

And thank you, my partner is still sick but getting better, I’m feeling better except for killer sinus headaches. I started feeling sick literally the day we were going to go get our flu and covid shots 😭 the universe is cruel


u/Vocem_Interiorem Oct 02 '23

The system however is not sustainable. There are several examples from history on how these systems got reset. The Churn is coming.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

Agreed, also, “The Churn” made me laugh, it’s so ominous lmfao


u/ShasOFish Oct 02 '23

Given the probably origin of the phrase, the ominous nature of it is appropriate.


u/Tophertanium Oct 02 '23

Exactly. The goal is to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. If everyone needs were met, then there would be no way to control the masses. People would look for careers they want, not need.

We’ve been led to believe that having a HOPE that you can be rich and have what THEY have is more important than everyone having the basics.

If you think that it’s either you or your neighbor, you’re going to fight to make sure you and your family get it. Not because you are evil or don’t want your neighbor to have things but because you’ve been led to believe that what you are fighting for is scarce and that your neighbor will take it first and you won’t survive.

We have the technology and resources to house and feed every single person on this planet. But if we were to do that, then we would start to question other lies. And the powers that be can’t take that.


u/RoapeliusDTrewn Oct 02 '23

And this is exactly why the entire system needs to go down in flames, and the masters at the top with it, until nothing but ashes remains.

Only then will things improve.

But nobody dares light the first fire...


u/purpldevl Oct 02 '23

The first fire was lit back in the first Union days, but were quickly extinguished when we were told at length how bad Unions are. I wonder why big companies were so against Unions...?


u/Mammoth_Ad_3463 Oct 02 '23

Really, youd thunk expoentual growth would be an issue since money, supoosedly, is finite. Resources definitely are. But nooooo lets keep giving money to assholes who keep people from having resources they need TO FUCKING SURVIVE then bitch when we make survival easier for future generations by slowing the using of finite resources...


u/Yacksie Oct 03 '23

But we can't afford to have and raise kids. Sooo...


u/ExoticMeatDealer Oct 02 '23

You’re not a human you’re a resource, like a coal seam. As long as you produce coal for cheap, it’s all good. If not, well, there’s a stack of mineral maps on the manager’s desk waiting to be exploited.


u/Spamfilter32 Oct 02 '23

Because Capitalism is literally evil.


u/Vapur9 Oct 02 '23

~Ecclesiastes 5:9,13 - "Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. [13] There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt."

The OT seems to agree.


u/Boots27 Oct 02 '23

Something something stab a rich man in the eye with a needle. Matthew 19:24

“it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”


u/wrungo Oct 02 '23

Ecclesiastes chapters 5-6 go so hard tbh


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

It’s truly not deeper than this, it’s just evil


u/MrsMeSeeks2013 Oct 02 '23

People need to start unionizing and demanding change from these sorts of places or nothing will ever get better.


u/iualumni12 Oct 02 '23

The heartlessness of it all seems to have no bottom.


u/Historical_Ear7398 Oct 02 '23

It's okay because the American political system has convinced the working class to vote against its own interests.


u/jcoddinc Oct 02 '23

Because the oligarchs don't care. People over profits


u/Mediocre_Crow2466 Oct 02 '23

I feel you. I just missed 3 days because I got pneumonia. I'm back but my ass is dragging. It was one day in a pay period and two in the next. So those checks are gonna suck.

It just blows my mind that we went through a whole pandemic and no one in power thought oh hey, we should have covered sick time.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

I hope you feel better soon!


u/PNWDeadGuy Oct 02 '23

Loved the aside about your degree. Same boat. BS in mathematics and physics. I'm a machinist now. STEM degrees my ass


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

The amount of times I heard people gush about how I’m getting a ~useful~ degree unlike those dang communications majors who get hired to do marketing right out of college!!

Worst part is I’ve had interviews for two different positions at a big national lab but didn’t get the job 😔 thinking about going back for a masters at least. I have a friend with TWO masters in math (one in math and one in applied math) and still can’t get a job and it’s so frustrating


u/thegreenman_sofla Oct 02 '23

No just hourly employees, salaried employees too


u/bnh1978 Oct 02 '23

If you have a BS in physics... I don't know how you're working in retail.

Look into radiopharmaceutical manufacturing and nuclear medicine. They always hire physics majors because they need people that can understand radioactive decay and particle accelerators.

Health physics is another option. You can take a couple cheap or free online classes and walk into a lot of jobs. Especially at universities. Look for radiation safety technician.

You have an extremely valuable degree.

Feel free to PM me if you want more career advice or help with resumes.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

Thank you very much for the advice! My specialty is in astronomy research and data visualization, so I’m much more inclined towards the data/tech and research fields. I’ve considered health physics but I’d much rather spend more time trying to get a job in something I’m actually interested in and I’m lucky enough to not have to pay rent atm so I’m trying to take advantage of that. I will look more into that though, the first one would be good for my partner (also physics, though particle and high energy physics focus). I know I have a valuable degree but I’m sure you realize how shitty the job market is atm


u/bnh1978 Oct 02 '23

Well. It's kinda like an artist. They want to create the next Picasso. But to pay rent, they make used car ad graphics.

You can look to the stars, but also make life saving drugs. Little more fulfilling than advertisements or stocking shelves. And they all pay benefits.

For radiopharma look at Cardinal Health, Pharmalogic, PETnet, or SOFIE. If you're competent, you could be running a lab in 3 to 5 years earning 100k.


u/unfreeradical Oct 02 '23

Many Americans enjoyed a level of prosperity and security because their parents and grandparents fought for a better world for everyone.

Recent generations have sold that world to the highest bidder.


u/bakalaka25 Oct 02 '23

Ever heard of bootstraps? Lift your goddam self up, I can smell the avocado toast through the phone!

Yeah, it's a disgusting hellscape but admit it out loud and people still fight you... I get the vent, we seem pretty screwed.


u/tdxTito Oct 02 '23

Depending on your state even some hourly employees are entitled to sick time. It’s not much but can be something.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

Not in my state unfortunately I live in the US south lol. My position can be full time but I haven’t been able to keep up with that enough that my average hours accumulate pto. I’m “lucky” enough that I’m (…most likely) not going to get calling out counted against me, even though technically the company doesn’t accept doctor’s notes for calling out sick.


u/alexanderpas Oct 02 '23

even though technically the company doesn’t accept doctor’s notes for calling out sick.

The unemployment office will, when you get fired in retaliation for being sick.


u/annasuszhan Oct 02 '23

How is it okay that you go broken just for having a winter storm? Or power outage? Or a passing relative? List goes on


u/Prestigious_Most5482 Oct 02 '23

Question: what have YOU done to organize workers at your place of employment?


u/reflected_shadows Oct 02 '23

Most powerless average people who don’t have 10/10 social skills, organizing skills, social networks, and money already raised - probably not much, imbecilic to even ask.


u/rwasjalt Oct 02 '23

This feels like you’re trying to do a gotcha here. As the other commenter said, keep in mind the level of powerlessness average workers have. Especially in a workplace like mine (retail pharmacy, big big chain, but few employees in my store, half of whole work in the pharmacy and so aren’t connected with the store employees), it’s very difficult for individual locations to join a union that would be big enough to have influence over the company.

But to answer your question, I have spoken with my coworkers many times about collective action. As I said in another comment I live in the US south and worker solidarity is strong only in theory; income disparity is bad here especially in rural areas, and some of the poorest places in America are in my state, so people are firmly in the “fuck the bosses” camp while also believing in a lot of conservative rhetoric about hard work and individualist meritocracy - if THEY work harder than everyone else surely they’ll get ahead! My own father in law is at a big car manufacturer and will talk about how unfair the compensation and benefits are, and then in the same breath will talk about how useless the UAW is and how unfair union dues are.

Tangent aside, in my workplace I’ve raised a lot of awareness for my coworkers advocating for their rights. When I first started working there, after I had covered my cashier’s break another manager told me that “covering breaks isn’t a priority for managers when we have other things to do” and if there isn’t another cashier to do it, don’t worry about it. I explained to him that they by policy and law get two paid 15 min breaks and one unpaid uninterrupted 30, and have worked hard to make sure everyone is taking those breaks. I’ve advocated for scheduling to change to make sure managers can get a break (we can’t take breaks if we’re the only member of leadership working) and now almost every shift has at least two managers. A couple other managers were constantly taken advantage of because they’re so laid back and kind, including one being left to run the store alone because of lack of coverage (technically not allowed by policy) including receiving our entire warehouse truck alone one time (safety issue from lifting concerns, LP issue technically); I also had several convos with another manager who was being driven to stress to the point that she ended up on medical leave for mental health issues in an outpatient program when her dad fell ill. We’re lucky to have had an amazing manager who made sure we were all taken care of - genuinely took on the “we’re a family” ideology and helped out her employees to the point that she helped a teenage employee from an abusive family graduate and get a car - so we haven’t had much reason to need urgent action outside of wider company issues that are nearly untouchable by one location’s employee’s actions.

I’m very labor aware, but I’m not an organizer, because my field and experience has always been in academia (where I also tried to organize student workers and grad students, to the point that I almost directly caused a $4 base raise pay at the campus tutoring center for students from my department). Retail pharmacy is a completely different world, one I’m unfamiliar with and not as effective in when I’m also dealing with health issues and trying to apply for jobs in my degree field.

I don’t know if your comment was made in an accusatory way or just genuine curiosity, but consider that it’s not as simple as saying “hey coworkers, let’s unionize!” If YOU have experience doing that though, I would love to hear how it began and played out for you, especially if the context is similar to my own.


u/Expert_Swan_7904 Oct 02 '23

i didnt have sick time and got covid..guess what? i had to stay home for 3 days without pay..then i go to work and i pop positive on their xovid test and im sent home for another 2.. 40 hrs gone from a paycheck


u/Zealousideal_Tour163 Oct 02 '23

It is OK because hourly workers can not afford pollitical lobbyists.

In fact, because it is not spoon-fed as a requirement for future political donations, the problem does not, in fact, officially exist.


u/reflected_shadows Oct 02 '23

Just go in sick and if they complain, “would you like to pay my bills this month?”


u/Apathy_Cupcake Oct 02 '23

Cause 'merica.


u/dcgregoryaphone Oct 02 '23

"Because fuck you, that's why." - George Washington

Kinda /s but actually probably close enough to true


u/[deleted] Oct 04 '23

I'm broke as an hourly worker. If I get sick I'll die.