Majority Of Americans Believe Food Workers Need Paid Sick Days

Illustration by Chris Ware, Lexington Herald-Leader

79 percent of workers in the food industry and a whopping 90 percent of restaurant workers report having no paid sick days, despite the obvious hazard posed by food workers coming to their jobs while sick. According to a new survey commissioned by the National Consumer League, Americans believe that should chang.

57 percent of respondents said it is “very important or important that the restaurant they frequent provide workers with paid sick days.” (In a slight disconnect, fully 92 percent of those polled said “it’s very important or important that the servers and cooks in the restaurants they frequent do not cook or serve while sick.”)

“Without having the benefit of paid sick days, restaurant workers can’t afford to be sick and are forced to come to work — and handle consumers’ food — when they should be at home resting,” said NCL’s Michell McIntyre. “Providing paid sick days is very clearly in the interest of consumers and the workers who handle their food.”

But lack of paid sick days is a problem that extends beyond the food industry. Overall, 40 percent of private sector workers and 80 percent of low-income workers do not have a single paid sick day. 20 percent of workers report either losing their job or being threatened with dismissal for wanting to take time off while sick.

The U.S. is currently experiencing the worst flu season in a decade, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that workers exhibiting flu-like symptoms stay home from work. But for a huge number of workers — including those handling the food that untold numbers of Americans will eat — staying home simply isn’t a possibility. (HT: Joe Satran)