Evan M. Lopez
Given the choice between paying their employees for a few sick days a year or forcing them to come in to work with the H1N1 virus, the runs, gonorrhea or all three, guess what thousands of Pennsylvania businesses pick? The latter, of course!
According to the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, 46 percent of Pennsylvania workers — and 44 percent of Philadelphia workers — don't have paid sick time. And where do 78 percent of these unlucky people earn their paychecks? The hotel and food service industries, which are apparently totally cool with their employees coughing and sneezing all over your pork tacos. Lest you think that's hyperbole, 33 percent of America's gainful employees admit that they schlep into work sick for fear of losing their jobs — and for good reason.
At a public forum at the Free Library's Central Branch at 19th and Vine streets March 10, workers shared their horror stories of toiling without paid sick time. Andre Butler, who works in the banquet industry, watched as a "really great" pregnant co-worker first barfed on the street, then barfed some more in the lobby of her employer, and finally, begrudgingly, called off — only to be basically fired: "That was a year and a half ago, and they haven't asked her to come in here since," he says. Others told of having to attend "coaching" sessions after only calling out once with the freaking swine flu, and being forced to find their own replacements after a back injury left them supine.
But this could soon change. Across the country, cities and states are considering laws that would require employers to let workers take at least some sick leave: San Francisco passed an earned sick days bill in '07; in Connecticut, gubernatorial candidates are debating something similar; and, yes, both Harrisburg and City Council are getting in on the action. Pennsylvania's HB 1830 would require that employees earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours on the clock, unless they're working for a small business, in which case they'd earn one hour of paid sick time for every 80 worked. Philadelphia's Bill No. 080474, meanwhile, is slightly more generous: It ensures one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
Of course, many business owners would rather get the shits from their effete employees than see these bills pass. So, bet your sickly little ass — which is currently oozing some sort of strange, green pus — that before all is said and done, a veritable cavalcade of business groups will declare that any such legislation will hit small businesses and move jobs out of the city and state, and blah blah blah. To which we reply: If San Francisco can teach us anything (other than how to throw a most excellent gay pride parade), it's that these fears are greatly exaggerated.
"The main objection was that it was just another add-on to the city mandating what businesses have to pay to stay in business," a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce told the Associated Press. "But since [the law took effect] we really have not heard much about it being a major issue for a lot of businesses."
Henceforth, the World Beer Pong Tour will be known as the World Pong Tour. The name change, explains Pong CEO Sam Pines, is a technicality. The World Pong Tour, which will descend upon McFadden's and the Draught Horse on March 20 and 22, respectively, has been beer-less for a few months now.
You read that right: Teams of ex-frat boys travel the country —the world, even! —plunking pong balls into red plastic cups, all while chugging water instead of Miller High Life or The Situation's ab sweat or whatever it was they used to get 'faced with.
Why in the name of a beer-giving God would they do such a thing?
"To give the sport more credibility," says Pines.
We're gonna go ahead and say that this must be a lie, and the alcohol-free World Pong Tour is some straightedge, young adult-luring Christian thing. If that's your bag, you can compete for $20 if you're a man, or $10 if you're a woman. It's free, however, if you see Jesus Christ in a red plastic cup.
Dept. of Sad Face
Speaking of things that should not exist, it wasn't long after the KGB ... er, the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) raided three of Philly's prized beer bars on March 4 that the bipolar mix of anguish and rage felt by the city's hops enthusiasts turned into a glimmer of hope: Maybe, just maybe, Harrisburg would finally realize that the word " byzantine" keeps popping up in descriptions of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) for a fucking good reason and seize this opportunity to scrap the agency and rewrite the liquor code it enforces.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but if bad news is to be beared, we'd rather you heard it from us first. So let it be known: The PLCB isn't going anywhere.
This, despite the murmurings that reform may be coming. Last week, for instance, state Rep. Robert Donatucci (D-Phila.) announced that he would hold hearings on the raids. State Sen. John Pippy (R-37th District) also wanted in, so their hearings were consolidated. "Right now," says Donatucci, "everyone's pointing fingers at one another and we're not getting answers, and we want to find out where the problem is happening and make sure it doesn't happen again."
By: Alyssa Grenning
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Fair enough. But Donatucci doesn't concede that the problem is with the overall liquor code itself — just these particular incidents. "Basically the reason they register the beers is [that] the commonwealth wants to collect their taxes on it." Certainly no other state has ever figured out how to tax fermented beverages without the help of some Prohibition-era bureaucracy, but anyway, carry on: "That's the law and they're entitled to do that. As far as enforcement officers go, I want to get down to how it was done."
In other words, to Donatucci, this is not a legal issue; it's an enforcement issue. Goddammit.
So, Rep. Donatucci, tell us again why we can't get a beer at Acme. "Basically, you have [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] against it."Facepalm.
According to Lew Bryson, managing editor at Malt Advocate magazine and a local beer scholar (and creator of the fast-growing Facebook group " Abolish the PLCB — Rewrite the Code!"), there are other equally asinine factors at play that are easy to overlook: For example, the Wine and Spirits stores are staffed by members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776, thus serving as a reminder that no matter what the issue at hand, a union will make it their issue .
Bryson isn't all that surprised that ridding ourselves of senseless booze laws isn't a political reality: "I think it's the best chance we've had, and it's not much of a chance. The whole key to this is keeping people's interest and excitement level up once these hearings next month inevitably don't really do much. These hearings, they're going to try as hard as they can to limit things to these limited incidents."
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Holly Otterbein and Andrew Thompson. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.