Posted by Jason Sheehan on January 23rd, 2013
There’s another sick leave bill for restaurant workers making its way through city council right now, and over on the Philly Post, Joel Mathis lays out the case for giving cooks, waitresses and other people who handle your food paid time off when they are sick. Of course there is a counter-argument–the same one spouted by restaurateurs every time this issue gets a public airing–and it goes something like this…
Opposition to the bill comes from restaurant owners, who fear getting stuck (essentially) subsidizing a week of vacation for their workers. But their opposition is built on a denial that sick workers work sick, swearing instead that the workers use an informal system to take time off and make it up later.
“The truth is, [the employee will] make up that income when they trade with somebody else. You’re going to be sick one day and you work the following Friday when you trade with another employee for picking up your shift,” Patrick Conway, CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging association, told Philadelphia Weekly in October. “It works out very well. So there’s really, I think, it’s a false notion that the industry has sick people coming in all the time to serve food to their patrons.”
If so, it’s a false notion being peddled by workers themselves.
You can read both sides of the argument over on the Philly Post right now. But before you go, just think about this for a minute. I spent 15 years as a cook and a chef, never once had health insurance or a paid day off, and in all that time I didn’t know a single person who didn’t work sick. Setting aside the fact that restaurant workers are human beings who sometimes get sick and sometimes need time off to recover and often can’t take that time off because they simply can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Ignoring compassion and decency and concern for your fellow man and framing this debate in the most selfish way possible, I want you to remember that these people who are coming to work with colds, with the flu, with all manner of ailments both gross and benign, ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE TOUCHING YOUR FOOD. And right now, they’re doing it primarily because they can’t afford not to.
Anyone who says that restaurant workers don’t come to work sick is lying. It’s a fact of the industry and will remain a fact of the industry until something is done about it.
The Case For A Sick-Leave Bill [Philly Post]