Like many hourly workers in Portland, when I wake up in the morning sick, I face an impossible choice. I can either go to work sick and risk passing my illness on to customers and co-workers, or I can stay home and lose a day of pay.

Because I am a cashier at Whole Foods, working while sick means I might infect dozens of customers. On the other hand, because I’m a part-time worker and a part-time graduate student, even one missed day in a month could mean I can’t pay all my bills. The Portland City Council needs to pass the original, strong paid-sick-time ordinance, written by the Keep Portland Healthy Coalition, so that all Portland workers no longer face these impossible choices.

Whole Foods does have an earned-paid-time-off policy; however, it doesn’t do much to protect part-time employees because the accrual rate is much slower than what the ordinance mandates. Under Whole Food’s current policy, I earn one hour of paid time off for every 50 hours of work. Thus, it takes me about five months to accrue a day’s worth of paid time off. The original ordinance would allow me to accrue one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours of work, almost twice as quickly as Whole Foods’ current policy.

In other words, I started working at Whole Foods at the end of August, and going into peak flu season, I won’t accrue a full workday’s worth of paid sick time until the end of January. If I wake up sick before February, I will have to calculate if I’ll be able to pay my bills without that $100 to $120 of pay. Like many graduate students, I’ve depleted most of my savings paying for tuition, fees and books, so even one unpaid day off might mean falling short on bills. It is not unreasonable to assume someone will get sick more than once every five months.

Since two city councilors, Belinda Ray and Brian Batson, have proposed significantly weaker versions of this ordinance, I want to share my lived experience as a part-time hourly employee so all the Portland city councilors, and all other residents of Portland, can understand how weaker policies do not protect Portland workers and do not keep Portland healthy.

Earlier this fall, I faced one of these impossible decisions. Just before I began working at Whole Foods, my 92-year-old grandfather was diagnosed with pneumonia. His health had been declining for a while, as he was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago. I knew he wouldn’t live much longer and I would need to start putting away money for a plane ticket to Colorado for the memorial service, since I didn’t currently have enough in my savings account.

I remember waking up with a sore and swollen throat in mid-September. The first thing I did was check my bank account. I was calculating, “If I call out today, will I be able to put some money away this month for a plane ticket to Colorado?” The answer was “no,” so I went to work sick.

My grandfather passed away Nov. 29. While I will be able to afford to go to the memorial service, it was not without potentially infecting my co-workers and customers. I do not believe that expenses for a loved one’s memorial service are a luxury, and Portland’s part-time workers deserve better than being forced to make these tough choices in order to pay for such important expenses.

Portland city councilors have the opportunity to end the strained decision-making that thousands of Portland workers make when we get sick. I love my job, I value my co-workers and my customers, and I don’t want to risk their health. Policies with such slow accrual rates, like Whole Foods’ policy, are effectively meaningless for part-time employees.

To keep Portland healthy, prevent the spread of communicable diseases and protect the dignity of Portland’s part-time workers, we need to be able to earn a day of paid time off more quickly than one every five months.