WBEZ | resturaunts http://www.wbez.org/tags/resturaunts Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Organizing for paid sick days: How worker rights can be a public health issue http://www.wbez.org/news/organizing-paid-sick-days-how-worker-rights-can-be-public-health-issue-106111 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sneeze.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F83280332&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The worse of the flu season maybe over, and experts are looking back to see how the flu shot did this year. But one Chicago group is focusing on a different way that viruses get spread and how the Illinois legislature can change it by giving workers sick days.</p><p>Nataki Rhodes works in food service. She&rsquo;s had jobs in cafes, catering, and restaurants.&nbsp; This winter, when the flu virus was raging, she&rsquo;d turn on the TV and hear anchors telling people who were sick to stay home. She&rsquo;d roll her eyes and think, &ldquo;Really? Stay home? That&rsquo;s easy to say. Sick&nbsp; days don&rsquo;t apply to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Rhodes says as a low wage worker, she can&rsquo;t afford to stay at home without pay. And even whe she has stayed home, her bosses sometimes discipline her.</p><p>&ldquo;In the business I am in it clearly states don&rsquo;t to come work sick. When I took my food and sanitation test, that&rsquo;s the main thing that&rsquo;s on the test. But the people I work for? That goes right out the window,&rdquo; says Rhodes.</p><p>According to a recent survey, over 90 percent of restaurant workers don&rsquo;t have paid sick leave. About 40 percent of workers overall don&rsquo;t.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Rhodes is working with ROC United, a restaurant workers union. Last year they were a part of a coalition that pushed a bill in the Illinois legislature. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, for a maximum of seven sick days a year.</p><p>The obvious push back was employers who say it would cost too much. The Illinois Restaurant Association wouldn&rsquo;t comment for this story, despite weeks of requests.</p><p>Melissa Josephs is the Director of Equal Opportunity Policy at Women Employed, one of the lead organizations on the campaign. She says employers&nbsp; think about the cost but not the benefits of giving sick days.</p><p>For example, Josephs says, &ldquo;There are a lot of employers that say [you have to come in], we don&rsquo;t give sick days. Its like you are not showing up. [Workers] get fired.&rdquo;</p><p>She says training new employees to fill those positions is more expensive than just having a sick leave policy. Then there is the issue of spreading the illness to fellow employees and customers.&nbsp;<br /><br />In Los Vegas there was a case where a hotel worker had the Norovirus, the most common stomach bug.</p><p>&ldquo;They infected 12 hundred guests and workers. And there was a jury that imposed 25 million dollars in damages to the hotel because they said the outbreak could have been prevented by having an appropriate sick leave policy,&rdquo; says Josephs.</p><p>But employers say right now, with the economy still tight, any additional cost could threaten layoffs. Despite the push back from employers, many politicians were in support of&nbsp; the legislation when it was proposed in the Illinois legislature.</p><p>But there was another catch that killed the bill.</p><p>Bills have what we call &ldquo;fiscal notes.&rdquo; Basically they explain how much the bill might cost the government. Usually it&rsquo;s something like a program needs funding. But it was little different in this case.</p><p>Some people contracted by the Illinois government don&rsquo;t currently receive sick days. After this legislation, they would.</p><p>So a fiscal note was attached the bill, that basically assumed the worst&nbsp;case scenario: that every one of these workers would earn and take the full maximum of seven days.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Adding multi-million dollar deficit It&rsquo;s not really going to encourage this new bill from passing,&rdquo; said Melissa Josephs.</p><p>Josephs says the one good thing about this year&#39;s monster flu, is it gave them leverage to revisit sick leave legislation.</p><p>A bill is currently in both the U.S. Senate and Congress to give all workers access to paid sick days. &nbsp;And Josephs hopes Illinois will consider taking state level action.</p><p>But most important, Rhodes says, is customer awareness. &ldquo;People don&rsquo;t know what is going on behind closed doors. All you know is a smile. Thank you.&nbsp; I&rsquo;m not going to say, &#39;Oh hi, I am not feeling well today... achoo...&rdquo;</p><p>To see if your favorite restaurant voluntarily offers sick leave, you can visit <a href="http://rocunited.org/dinersguide/">ROC&rsquo;s online dining guide. &nbsp;</a><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 21 Mar 2013 16:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/organizing-paid-sick-days-how-worker-rights-can-be-public-health-issue-106111