Every day, food service employees — 80 percent of whom are working without paid leave for illness — face difficult choices between their health and their jobs.
The decisions these workers make affect not only their personal health, but also the health of the customers who eat in their establishments.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as half of the nation’s 20 million annual ‘noro-virus’ (stomach flu) infections are directly attributable to ill food workers.
A small group of citizens concerned by these issues along with Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, protested Tuesday outside Taquieria El Idolo in Elmhurst.
Taquieria El Idolo recently fired an employee, Celina Alvarez, who had spent a few days in the hospital due to a serious heart condition.
“When I told [my employer] what the doctor said, he said he would let me know if there was any work for me after my two weeks of rest. But he never called me back. In other words, I lost my job because I got sick and couldn’t go back to work right away,” said Alvarez.
The workers rallying in Elmhurst called for a paid sick day law which would protect workers similar to laws guaranteeing minimum wage.
The paid leave would vary depending on the establishment: some employees might receive pay while taking sick days, while others would simply take the time off without being paid, but would know their jobs are secure.