Nataki RHODES  

Restaurant Opportunities Centers–Chicago

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CHICAGO LOOP

For over ten years I worked in the restaurant and food services industry, not a single one of my employers had a paid sick time policy. I showed up to work sick because I feared being disciplined or fired and because I was an hourly worker and needed the money. I knew, by coming to work, I was causing harm to myself and to others by spreading my illness to colleagues and consumers; but I didn’t have a choice, I needed to provide for my family. Being a sick worker in the food services industry is not only unhygienic, it’s a public health crisis; but I found that for my employers, the only thing that mattered was their bottom line.

"It was an empowering experience to share my story and inform polices that would affect thousands of low-wage and hourly workers like me."

It was also a struggle to juggle the demands of my job and being a single parent. I wasn’t able to take care of my son when he got sick or take him to the doctor’s office.

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As a member of the Mayor’s Working Families Task Force, I helped develop recommendations for the Earned Sick Time Ordinance. I learned how to organize and advocate for paid sick time and influence decision makers. It was an empowering experience to share my story and inform polices that would affect thousands of low-wage and hourly workers like me. I am now an organizer for Restaurant Opportunities Centers–Chicago and engage low-wage workers across the region around issues that impact them. I share my story with them to demonstrate that our stories matter, our voice matters, and we can make a difference. Next on my horizon is fighting for the minimum wage increase at the state level and making sure that the Earned Sick Time Ordinance is fully implemented.