TWO VIEWS: Sick-leave policy lifts struggling workers, city’s economy

  • Adam Orman
  • Special to the American-Statesman
6:50 p.m Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 Opinion
Tamir Kalifa
An employee in the kitchen at L’Oca d’Oro in July 217.

The restaurant industry has been instrumental in educating consumers about the health and environmental benefits of sustainably farmed produce and humanely raised animals; we believe it is time for us to catch up to other sectors with how we pay our employees and what benefits we provide.

Because our employees are consumers as well as workers, we believe that providing good jobs in an industry that is racing to the bottom isn’t just the right thing to do; it also helps our business and our economy thrive.

TWO VIEWS: Austin sick leave policy will push entrepreneurs to suburbs.

That’s why L’Oca d’Oro has joined 20 other Austin businesses to support a citywide policy to ensure that all workers in Austin can earn paid sick days. The city of Austin is following the lead of 40 other cities, counties, and states that have already enacted paid sick day laws to improve public health and support working families.

More than one in every three Austin workers — and nearly two in three Austin workers in the service sector — is unable to earn paid sick days at work, forcing them to choose between paying the bills and going to work sick — or sending a sick child to school. According to data from the Economic Policy Institute, being out sick for even half a day without pay costs the equivalent of a low-wage family’s monthly spending for fruits and vegetables. Being out for nearly three days equals the family’s entire grocery budget for a month.

As much as we struggle to succeed in a competitive market, making sure employees have the time they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones when they are ill also boosts productivity and reduces turnover, which can be a significant expense for employers. If restaurants provided a proper hourly wage to tipped employees and began to provide some of the benefits — like paid sick days — that other industries routinely provide, it is possible that restaurant work would no longer be seen as transitory work.

HOW WE GOT HERE: Campaign launches effort to get paid sick leave for all Austin workers.

Unlike most other restaurants, we include the kitchen staff at L’Oca d’Oro in the tip pool to increase our cooks’ paychecks. Still, no cook in Austin is in a financial position to comfortably sacrifice any days of lost pay — and in many other industries, he or she wouldn’t have to.

In the restaurant industry, ensuring that our employees don’t come in when they’re sick also helps to reduce the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses. Cities with paid sick day policies have seen flu infection rates decrease by approximately six to seven percent.

We hope other business owners who feel as strongly as we do about their employees will join us in supporting paid sick days for all Austin workers. Our city is unlike any other in Texas because of our progressive values, and that’s exactly why my business partner and I decided to put down roots and open our doors here. We are excited to work with the Austin City Council to find a solution that works for our community and our economy.

We don’t believe anyone who works in Austin should have to come into work sick to make ends meet — or must choose between buying groceries and sending a sick child to school. Austin can guarantee a stronger, healthier workforce by providing the opportunity for workers to earn paid sick days.

Orman is a managing partner of L’Oca d’Oro.

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