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Restaurant Workers Target Unsavory Labor Practices at Darden

3:45 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

ROC United / Dignity at Darden

Cross-posted from In These Times

America is what it eats, and our restaurants, where we wolf down everything from Belgian fries to sushi, serve up the best and the worst of our economy.  Behind every elegant table is a churning, stressed out kitchen, staffed with workers who may be barely able to feed their own families.

While restaurant owners scarf up profits, workers with the Restaurant Opportunities Center are biting back with a multi-city campaign against a company that represents the one-percent of the food service industry. They have launched protests as well as legal action against Darden, which runs Capital Grille, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other prominent eateries.

According to the lawsuit, Capital Grille workers in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago  were subjected to grueling work schedules and underpayment of wages, and sometimes were forced to work “off the clock” and denied overtime. Some tipped workers allegedly had their wages siphoned off to supplement the pay of non-tipped employees. There are also allegations of systematic racial discrimination—complaints that black workers were pushed out of the job and told they “didn’t meet Capital Grille standards.” In recent months, workers from other cities have also come forward with complaints about mistreatment.

The litigation is part of a grassroots campaign to expose unsavory labor practices throughout the restaurant sector. ROC’s organizing work in New York, Chicago, the Washington, DC area, Los Angeles and Miami has revealed patterns of exploitation that reflect business as usual in an industry that routinely fattens its profit margins by skirting regulations and squeezing labor costs. Read the rest of this entry →

Study: Restaurants Feed on Exploited Women’s Labor

7:08 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Next time you plunk down some change on the table before leaving a restaurant, think about what might be behind that service with a smile. A new study warns that when Americans eat out, they feed into an industry fueled by exploitation and rampant discrimination against women.

The report, published by the labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) in partnership with a coalition of labor and women’s rights groups, details the restaurant industry’s secret recipe for fattening profits: low wages, harsh working conditions, erratic hours and multiple racial and gender barriers to job advancement–all served with a side of broken immigration laws and a powerful industry lobby.

In a testimony in the report, Claudia Muñoz recalled how her job at a national pancake chain restaurant in Texas demanded round-the-clock hours without overtime pay. Scrounging for tips, she earned as little as $160 per week. Muñoz says:

I had to eat less than $6.50 for the employee meal. … I could only afford pancakes. If you were on the schedule for only 5 hours, you couldn’t get a meal. There were days when I wouldn’t eat all day.

Surrounding her was a cross-section of the country’s forgotten workforce:

There were a lot of older people—women in their 50’s. They had children, families, some were single mothers … and $2.13 plus tips was all they had. … It really opened my eyes. It was Latinos cooking, white women working graveyard shifts, men working during the day. I saw the racism, sexism, and low wages in the industry. Everything I remember from that place was horrible. Read the rest of this entry →