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'Paid Sick Leave' Proponents Rally at Olive Garden

Connecticut Working Families organization seeks support for legislation now pending in State Senate.

"No more puking in our pasta," was the unappetizing slogan chanted by approximately 40 people holding a rally outside Olive Garden in Corbin's Corner on Thursday afternoon.

Connecticut Working Families oganized the rally to protest the policy of Olive Garden's Parent Company, Darden Restaurant Group, to not provide paid sick days to their food service workers.

Joe Dinkin, Communications Director for Connecticut Working Families, said that food workers, sympathizers, and public health advocates participated in the rally which was part of the Everybody Benefits campaign.

Elise Willer, who was handing out fliers to drivers entering the parking lot at Corbins Corner, said, "Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurant Group which makes $400 million per year. They can afford paid sick days."

"Our point is not to stop people from going to the restaurant, just to get them to treat their people well," Willer said.

The Paid Sick Leave Bill was narrowly approved by the appropriations committee on May 9, and is now awaiting action by the State Senate. If it passes, Senate Bill 913 would make Connecticut the first state to mandate paid sick leave for eligible employees. Businesses with less than 50 employees would be exempt from the requirement.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Connecticut Restaurant Association oppose the controversial legislation because of its potential financial impact.

A release issued by Connecticut Working Families quotes Louis Lista, owner of the Pond House Restaurant in West Hartford, who expressed a different opinion.  "Especially in the restaurant industry, I think paid sick days are critical for the health of my employees and my customers, and good for the bottom  line," said Lista, who already provides his employees with paid sick leave.

The rallyers remained in front of Olive Garden throughout the busy lunch hour, holding signs with the words "No Sneezes in our Spaghetti" and "Unlimited Breadsticks but No Paid Sick Days."

Jeff Hogan May 13, 2011 at 04:26 PM
I'm entirely opposed to this legislation. Employers are over-regulated and over-burdened in this state. We haven't added a single new job in CT since 1990. State mandates comprise nearly 25% of the premium cost for a health plan in CT. Small business owners are struggling to create jobs in this state. Adding yet another imposition from above creates another impediment to the creation of needed jobs. I employ people in Farmington and I give them PTO, sick time and vacation time, but many struggling employers aren't capable of doing so. Jobs are fleeing this state in droves. I think that it is arrogant that the largest employer in the state of CT (the state of CT) deigns to tell employers what they have to do when the state has a nearly $50 billion unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liability for its own employees! The state needs to fix its own house before it tries to fix everyone else's. Just my opinion......but you asked.
Bill Stanford May 13, 2011 at 07:17 PM
The unintended consequence of policies like this is easy to identify – fewer jobs in Connecticut. In addition to the jobs lost directly from adding to the costs of existing employers, passing this legislation will send a message to any company that might consider relocating jobs to Connecticut. Unfortunately, the message will be that Connecticut is not friendly to employers.
Robin Lindstedt May 13, 2011 at 08:40 PM
One more reason for businesses to run out of the state. When will the lawmakers embrace a "bring business" to Connecticut attitude? They raise taxes and add these unreasonable employment laws to the books. No wonder we have so many nice empty buildings in the state.
Bee Watcher May 14, 2011 at 02:29 AM
Fact: The Olive Garden is not a small business. It is a national chain restaurant that is doing quite well. It does not provide paid sick time. Nor do national department stores like Kohl's. Workers who call out for any reason or are late for any reason-- no matter how legitimate--- ex: I was in a car accident are given demerits. If they get 10 in a year, they are fired under company policy. Many come in sick to work--- meaning they're actually vomiting or have a high fever while standing on their feet for hours so they don't get written up or lose their jobs for something that can easily happen to any of us. Thus, in my view, not providing paid sick is inhumane. Work places are more productive and profit margins remain high when people are healthy and functioning at full capability. Taking care of one's employees enables a business to be successful. People make the business run. Also: Please do not confuse paid sick days with the provisions in the Family Medical Leave Act.
Bee Watcher May 14, 2011 at 03:34 AM
There's a middle ground solution here. Why not limit the number of sick days provided to a number the businesses can afford to give so neither the organizations nor the employees suffer undue hardship? Then Connecticut will be a business friendly state where people will seek the jobs which need to be filled in order for these businesses to operate. They will also be happier at work and work harder because they will feel they are being treated fairly and humanely instead of exploited.

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