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Paid Sick Leave for Food Workers is a Win-Win

(Image Credit: International Business Times “When Sick, Most Food Service Employees Go To Work Anyway

Paid sick leave for food workers should have always been a no-brainer, because it’s a win-win for business and public health. But in our new “normal” of Shelter-in-Place, it should be mandatory.

The Need

As of 2018, more than 13 million Americans worked in foodservice. A recent federal study found that about one out of every eight restaurant workers “worked when they were sick with vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts during the last year.”  Other studies have found that HALF of food industry employees go to work even when they are sick.

Why? Because “if you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.” And few states require restaurants to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Beginning in 2015, California required restaurants to provide paid sick leave under The California Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.)

The newly-passed federal “Families First” Act is a good first step, but it does not go nearly far enough. It is temporary (expires December 31, 2020), and there are huge exceptions for large employers like McDonald’s, with 1.7 million employees. (McDonald’s and some other large restaurant chains have voluntarily offered limited paid sick leave, but many workers fear retaliation for attempting to use it.) There are also exceptions for small businesses.

The Plan

A national paid sick leave act for food industry workers, with protection against retaliation, is needed. Pandemics do not respect state boundaries or our federalist system of government. Sick people must stay home to protect others against COVID-19 and future pandemics. The benefits of (im)mobilizing to prevent collapse of our health care system and economy far exceed the costs.