Yesterday, Fight for Philly joined the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Working America, PathWays PA, and restaurant workers from here in the city to talk to City Council members about the importance of passing a bill mandating employers provide paid sick leave to workers. Restaurant workers know better than anyone how bad it can be to go to work sick, but we all know how important it is to be able to take care of ourselves when we’re sick without having to lose pay.
Restaurant worker Kelly talked to Council staffers about the challenges of making a living when any illness could mean having to choose between work and staying home to get better. Recently, she broke an arm, forcing her to miss weeks of work without pay while she recovers.
Employment conditions in the restaurant industry place workers in a position in which they feel compelled to work while sick and place consumers and co-workers at risk of contagion. Given the low wages described earlier and the fact that 12 in 13 workers do not have access to paid sick days, it is not surprising that nearly two-thirds of Philadelphia restaurant workers (64.6%) have worked while sick. Nearly three out of four (71.7%) of those that worked while sick said that they could not afford to take the day off without pay, and almost half (46.4%) said that they were afraid of being ﬁred or penalized for staying home. When restaurant workers are compelled to work sick, consumers are also placed at risk. Over two out of ﬁve workers that worked while sick (42.3%) said that they have coughed or sneezed while handling food. Moreover, restaurant workers who work while sick get other restaurant workers sick, who then are faced with the same decision of working sick or losing needed income. A third of workers who worked sick (33.4%) reported believing that they have gotten other workers sick. Furthermore, nearly all (94.3%) surveyed workers were not offered health insurance coverage by their employer, and half of our survey respondents reported having no coverage at all (49.6%). Workers reported that some of the consequences of preparing and handling food when sick were slower recovery and spreading illness to other workers and customers.
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