Fighting For Restroom Rights

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready is speaking out about Crohn’s disease with brave candor.

McCready visited the Washington State capital in Olympia Jan. 29 to ask that state’s lawmakers to mandate emergency access to businesses’ private restrooms for sufferers of Crohn’s and related diseases. McCready has suffered from Crohn’s, a painful gastrointestinal disorder that can make restroom access a quick necessity.

“Imagine the worst diarrhea you’ve ever had, and then times it by 10, with a knife in it,” McCready said to the legislative committee. “You have maybe a half-a-second to find out where a bathroom is.”

Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is sponsoring a bill that makes employee restrooms available to disease sufferers, as long as they provide an I.D. card or a letter from a doctor or nurse. Businesses that refuse could be fined $100.
McCready made clear the disease could flare up at any time.

“I was in the middle of a solo and it hit, and I can’t go anywhere because I’m playing in front of 20,000 people,” McCready told the Associated Press after he testified. “So I just let go. I went back stage and cleaned up, because the show must go on.”
The same happened prior to a Pearl Jam-Rolling Stones concert, and McCready had to rush to a portable toilet.
Over the past 20 years, McCready estimates he’s had “hundreds” of accidents.

“I’m 42 years old. I’m doing fine,” he said. “But when you’re 13 or 14 and you’re going through those years with the shame and indignation – it’s embarrassing.”

The Washington Restaurant Association was represented at the hearing by lobbyist Michael Transue. The WRA was sympathetic to the situation but did what would be expected and opposed it.

Transue argued allowing public with inflammatory bowel diseases to use employee restrooms could create safety issues, particularly if they had to travel through busy kitchens during peak business hours.

“We’re very sympathetic to the issue presented,” Transue said. “To allow folks in these situations to use our employee restrooms is the humane and compassionate thing to do. That said, imposing mandatory requirements” is not fair to businesses.