LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Members of D.C.’s Paid Sick Days Coalition are canvassing near restaurant districts this week, which also happens to be D.C.’s Restaurant Week, to bring attention to their cause.

Made up to look ill and wearing chef’s hats, they have been out on the streets holding signs that say things like “I’m sick but I have to work because I don’t have paid sick days!” and “Achoo!!! That might have been in your food!”

“The idea was to sort of dramatize and catch people’s attention,” says Naomi Iser, an advocacy associate for the D.C. Employment Justice Center.

In 2008, D.C. passed the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, which allows District workers to earn paid sick time. However, certain food service personnel, healthcare workers, and full-time students working less than 25 hours per week at their college or university are exempt.

“Our campaign is focused on getting legislation passed in D.C. that would ensure all workers would be able to take a day off when they or a child is sick so they don’t have to risk losing a day’s wages or being fired from their position,” Iser says.

“This is an issue that really affects low income workers in D.C. and nationally.”

Another of the coalition’s goals is to gather 4,000 signatures in support of paid sick days for all by the end of the summer. So far, they have about 2,500.

Feedback from people the group has encountered while canvassing during restaurant week has generally been very positive, Iser says.

Many have said they had no clue restaurant workers do not get paid time off, and have expressed concern for the public health issues the policy may create.

In short, they “think it’s gross,” according to Iser.

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