In their new report, "Serving While Sick: High Risks & Low Benefits for the Nation's Restaurant Workforce, and Their Impact on the Consumer," [pdf] ROC found that 90% of workers in the restaurant industry lack paid sick leave and, as a result, 63% of those surveyed reported preparing, cooking and serving food while sick. In addition, 90% of those polled reported that their employers do not offer health insurance -- a reality that often leaves workers with little access to medical treatment when they do get sick.
Based on "the largest national survey of restaurant workers ever conducted" (more than 4,300 restaurant workers in cities nationwide were polled), the study's implications are huge not just for the restaurant industry, but also for the consumers who are on the receiving end of foods prepared by sick workers. The report shines light on an industry that is rife with injury and illness, but provides few avenues for employees to protect themselves from dangerous working conditions or access treatment if they do indeed find themselves sickened or injured.
Along with an overwhelming lack of paid sick sick leave and health insurance, the ROC study also finds that,
- 38 of workers reported doing something while working that put their own safety at risk.
- 49.5% reported being cut on the job
- 46% reported being burned on the job.
ROC sees the solution to the problems faced by the restaurant industry as relatively straightforward: restaurants, they say, "must offer workers safer workplaces and conventional job benefits, including health insurance, paid sick days, and workers’ compensation insurance." To that end, the organization supports federal legislation (and other policy efforts) that would require employers to provide paid sick days, as well as greater access to health insurance for all low-wage workers, including immigrants.
To help bring attention on these critical health and safety issues, ROC released "Serving While Sick" as part of a recent Congressional briefing organized in cooperation with the National Partnership for Women and Families -- another Ms. Foundation grantee. The briefing drew more than 90 attendees, and featured an address by Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut; media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times have highlighted the report in their pages.
Congratulations to ROC on a job well done!
Initially founded after September 11th, 2001 to provide support to restaurant workers displaced as a result of the World Trade Center tragedy, ROC United is a national restaurant workers' organization dedicated to winning improved conditions for restaurant workers everywhere. Many of their groundbreaking reports on the restaurant industry are viewable in PDF form on their website.