Friday, February 18, 2011

YOU Make Me Sick!

As we watch Republicans attempt to bust up Unions, giving employers ultimate power in Wisconsin and Ohio, my attention was drawn to a news report last night. A study released in the Journal of Food Protection shows that almost 90% of those who work for a restaurant do not have employer-provided health insurance and lack sick days, and close to 80% don't get paid vacation time.

Not a big deal right? Minimum waged employees - who cares?

We should ALL care!!!

Why? Because a growing number of those employees, who don't get paid vacation time, are coming to work sick and handling the very food you eat. In Washington D.C. alone, 56% of restaurant workers reported actually going to work and cooking, preparing, or serving food while they were sick - including those experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.

Restaurant employees don't have paid vacation and/or health insurance. Bottom line, they don't work, they don't get paid - forcing sick employees to come to work and handle your food.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA), the restaurant industry's business association, has fought against requiring restaurants to have paid sick leave. I find it interesting in a time when busting up unions seems to be the top priority for Republicans, here is a prime example where a collective bargaining effort would benefit not only the employees, but also the patrons. The NRA - no, not the gun-totting one - is the largest food and beverage political action committee. They contribute to both Democrats and Republicans. When you have powerful CEOs working with Congress, who represents the workers? At the end of the day, no one.

This is normally the case when profit is more important than the health of the public. Today, if you are sick and working in a busy restaurant, the management is less likely to send you home. Sick workers infect the public daily. Food borne illness kills 5,000 people annually, according to the study, and sickens some 76 million.  I may be crazy, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to build bargining relationships, not destroy them.  At least for the sake of the people - not profits.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely understand that there are those who will abuse sick days and not really be sick... but at what cost? Isn't it worth it to negotiate a middle ground, at least for the health and well-being of the general public?
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