As states begin to reopen restaurants, many of their employees still lack adequate protections.
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On Friday, May 1, Senator Elizabeth Warren is joining restaurant workers in an online rally to demand more protections amid the coronavirus pandemic. The former presidential candidate will be speaking with servers from Applebee's, Chili's, and IHOP, as well as the executive director of Paid Leave for All, Dawn Hucklebridge, and the president of the New York State Nurses Association, Judy Gonzalez, to urge restaurants to take the safety of their employees more seriously.

The rally, organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, will focus on the grave need for more protections for restaurant workers at corporate chains, in particular, as states begin to allow the reopening of dining rooms. Demands include expanded paid sick leave policies and adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff.

Elizabeth Warren To Rally With Restaurant Workers
Credit: BRIDGET BENNETT / Getty Images

As many states begin the reopening process in May, restaurant workers are uniquely vulnerable, many of them working long, customer-facing hours without the safety net of paid sick leave or even adequate protective equipment. Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that food sector workers will receive two weeks of paid sick leave if they become sick with coronavirus or are required to self-isolate, saying that the measure was designed to "fill a gap left by federal relief."

Indeed, there are still many gaps to fill around the country. For millions of other restaurant workers across the country, if they get sick, missing work (and a paycheck) is just not an option. "This presents a risk both to the public and to workers," social epidemiologist Carolyn C. Cannuscio told us in March. "Once a chef or server comes to work sick, the rest of the staff—working in close quarters over long shifts—is basically trapped. So are the customers.”

Throughout the pandemic, Warren has been vocal about the need for universal paid sick leave for all of the country's essential workers, from critical care nurses to food service employees. On April 13, Warren joined Representative Ro Khanna of California to introduce the Essential Worker's Bill of Rights, which offered several policy recommendations for protecting workers who are most vulnerable during the crisis.

Warren's online rally this Friday will coincide with a nationwide strike among workers of companies like Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Instacart, who are demanding improved safety measures and better pay.