Ashley Maddox, 28, is a waitress at Deco Sandwiches on South Beach. Before her shift began last week, she stood outside the Capital Grille with a few dozen others to speak out against the recently signed HB655 bill, which preemptively bans local governments from creating laws requiring paid sick time.
Maddox, who has a two-year-old child, said that if she were to take time off from work when she got sick, she'd probably get fired. "I won't bring home the money, and I won't be able to take care of my baby."
Like many other workers, she has gone to work sick before, including a time when she had tonsillitis and could barely speak to her customers. "It's hard because you don't want to be there because you don't want to infect others."
Maddox thinks Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's legislators don't realize the impact of the law. "They need to take into account: how much do they eat out? Would they want sick workers waiting on them?"
Organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Miami, protestors began inside the restaurant and distributed pamphlets to customers. Meanwhile Kit Rafferty from the South Florida Voices for Working Families performed a skit. The group then walked outside to the Brickell Avenue Bridge in front of the Capital Grille.
Capital Grille was the site of the protest because it is owned by Darden Restaurants, the corporate parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Darden played a big role in lobbying in favor of the bill's passage.
Sixty percent of restaurant workers have reported coming to work sick, says Rafferty. While Capital Grille's website says its sole desire is that everything that arrives at your table delights you, Rafferty said, "My sole desire today is to make sure they hear our message."
Rafferty is hoping that they can do something in the future to guarantee workers paid sick leave. "They have earned sick time in China. Why not in America? And it's particularly important in the restaurant industry, especially here in Miami, which is a tourist destination."
High school students from the Power of U Center for Social Change led chants in support of the workers' movement, alongside representatives from Haitian Women of Miami.
Haitian Women's executive director Marleine Bastien said, "We are blessed to live in the state of Florida, and have the Miami Heat, but it is shameful to have a governor who doesn't respect workers. We cannot believe that he crumbled under pressure to corporate interests."
Bastien thinks Darden's customers should care too. "If you have enough money to eat at a place like Capital Grille, you need to be sure that the workers are healthy."