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Survey: Restaurant Workers Lack Sick Days

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A new study of Chicago restaurant workers suggests the vast majority lack employer-provided health insurance and sick leave. And more than three quarters report going to work while ill.

A labor advocacy group called the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago led a survey of 582 workers in Cook County.

The center says more than 90 percent don’t receive health insurance from their employers. Center coordinator Veronica Avila says that puts a burden on other taxpayers.

AVILA: You have people that essentially have a full-time job but that have to rely on social-assistance programs because their employer isn’t doing the right thing.

About 96 percent of the restaurant workers say they lack paid sick days. And almost 76 percent report going to work while ill.

That center is sounding an alarm about public-health implications. It’s backing an Illinois House bill that would require most employers to provide paid sick days.

An Illinois Restaurant Association spokeswoman says her group’s leaders haven’t had a chance to read the report so they can’t comment.

The Illinois Department of Economic Security says restaurant workers in the county earned an average of $18,232 in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available.

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