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A New Direction for Restaurant Workers? Zingerman’s and the “Thriveable Wage”

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Waiter

An update on the ongoing wage crisis for restaurant workers in the United States.

The wage crisis among restaurant workers has gained attention in recent weeks, reminding the public that federal minimum wage for restaurant workers is currently $2.13 per hour even while the federal minimum wage for most other sectors is $7.25 per hour. According to Saru Jayaraman, Director of the Food and Labor Research Center, low wages for restaurant workers is the biggest legacy of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who served as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, worked hard during Cain’s tenure to keep the cost of labor low in its sector. Jayaraman also points out that women constitute at least half of people in the restaurant sector.

In light of the industry’s powerful lobbying to keep wages low, it is rare to find restaurants — or corporations generally — driven by a desire to improve their employees’ overall living wage and wellness, rather than how the market can make them richer. Enter Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (Zingerman’s), made up of 18 partners and several different enterprises including a restaurant called Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Based in Michigan, Zingerman’s partners are known for having built their enterprises based on how they can “enhance the lives of as many people as [they] possibly can.”

In practice this means offering all their employees — part time and full time — health and dental benefits, and paid time off. After they work at Zingerman’s for a year, employees are eligible for 401(k)s.

Tabitha Mason, who built her career in the restaurant industry, is the manager of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. “Early in my career at a different restaurant, I probably made $20,000 per year. That was a more traditional restaurant, where servers were viewed as disposable,” Mason told RH Reality Check. “And previous restaurants I worked at would try hard to restrict who could receive benefits — like it was an exclusive club.”

While Zingerman’s Roadhouse pays its staff just a smidge over the federal restaurant workers’ minimum wage, their staff earn $21 per hour. Management monitors tips to ensure this, according to Mason.

And last year, Zingerman’s partners began cultivating a new dimension of their focus on employee-centered business:  the concept of a “thriveable wage.” We’ve heard of the minimum wage, described above, which offers a floor for what a worker can legally earn in a given sector. And we’ve heard of a “living wage,” which ensures a worker can earn what is necessary to survive.

Moving to a “thriveable wage” is part of Zingerman’s deeper commitment to their worker and an understanding that, as an employer, they’re part of a larger ecosystem of workers, their families, and their communities, not just partners and shareholders. At a retreat last year, Zingerman’s partners began toying with the concept of a thriveable wage, drafting a vision statement that includes the following:

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Rethinking Immigration: Moms Will Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Their Kids

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

immigration rally

Immigration Rally

Written by Trisha Teofilo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from the National Immigrant Justice Center blog.

Congress needs to understand something important as it works to pass a new immigration law: Neither a border nor even the threat of detention can keep a determined parent from trying to reach a child who needs her care.

To ignore this fact, when we have the opportunity to create an immigration system that truly meets the needs of our families and communities, would not only be a lost opportunity for good public policymaking, but also would put countless lives at risk.

I have spent the majority of my career working with immigrant victims of domestic abuse. Although it can be challenging, it has proven to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling work. For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to work with men, women, and children who have taught me how to persevere.

Harsh Laws Undermine Critical Victim Protections

Fortunately, in most of the cases I see, something can be done. I often can assist my clients with filing self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act based on domestic abuse, or applying for U Visas based on being crime victims, or at the very least can refer them to counseling services and assistance to obtain orders of protection. I have learned to appreciate the many small steps it takes a person to move from a life of abuse, victimization, and dependence to a life of freedom and security. It is not easy, and dealing with the complex bureaucratic immigration system is a burden that often takes a backseat to the more urgent issues of personal safety, survival, and escaping abuse.

Despite progress in our laws to protect victims of domestic violence, the U.S. government’s focus on harsh enforcement practices and rollback of basic due process protections — including the chance to see a judge before being deported — have led to victims being denied true security. Deportation can be life-threatening for people who are forced to return to countries where they will not be protected from domestic violence, or for the children they leave behind in precarious situations in the United States. Deportation can mean death.

When Carmela’s* case came to me, she had recently been released from immigration detention. As a child, she was abused by her parents and older siblings. The abusive home life led her to get married at a very young age, but her husband also became abusive. Carmela fled her husband’s abuse and came to the United States. She eventually married again in the United States, only to be victimized again.

In 1995, an immigration judge granted Carmela voluntary departure. She left the United States to comply with the judge’s order. Unfortunately, the attorney she had at the time did not submit the appropriate paperwork so that the U.S. government would know that she complied with the departure order. Thus, her voluntary departure, which would have allowed her potentially to return to the U.S. lawfully at any time, turned into a deportation order, which permanently barred her from lawfully returning to the United States.

Carmela’s Struggle to Be Near Her Children

Carmela’s abusive husband insisted that she return to the United States and arranged for her to return unlawfully. Carmela felt desperate, as if she had no other choice, because she needed to care for her children. She returned to the United States, only to again be caught by immigration officials, detained, and subject to reinstatement of her deportation order. Even after she was deported, the abusive cycle continued and Carmela’s husband once again arranged for her to return to the United States unlawfully.

Carmela eventually was able to leave her abusive relationship, but without legal immigration status, it has been difficult to provide financially for her family. Her 17-year-old daughter Magaly is an excellent student who has lived in the United States since she was one. Magaly is applying for temporary protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Carmela also has helped to raise an “adopted” U.S. citizen daughter. Another daughter, Ariana, has become a naturalized U.S. citizen and begun a family of her own.

After a car accident in 2012, a police officer arrested Carmela and transferred her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She was detained for three months, during which Magaly was left without her mother. Current immigration law denies Carmela a hearing in front of an immigration judge because of her prior deportation order. NIJC has helped Carmela file two applications for a stay of removal and a request for prosecutorial discretion, since she easily falls into what the Obama administration has designated as “low priority” for deportation.

However, with her prior removal order, Carmela does not qualify for any long-term immigration relief. If Carmela were able to qualify for permanent legal status, she would be able to solidify the roots she has established in her community, with her family. Carmela and Magaly would not be afraid that ICE could show up at their doorstep any day and take Carmela into custody again. Magaly would have the opportunity to become a permanent resident and be able to pursue dreams of a college education after she graduates from high school this year. Instead, the family lives in fear that Carmela can be deported any day.

Laws Should Protect, Not Punish, Families

Congress needs to rebuild our immigration system so that it includes people like Carmela and Magaly. Carmela should not be punished for returning to the United States to care for her children. She should be afforded a hearing in front of an immigration judge and an opportunity to share her story. She should not have to fear returning to immigration detention. She is not a criminal or a flight risk. Rather, she is a mother and a provider. She should be allowed to stay in the United States and obtain long-term immigration status to build a life with her family, free from abuse and fear.

And if my argument is not persuasive enough, read Magaly’s own words from her DACA work authorization application, where she tells the U.S. government why she wants a chance for her family to build a future in the United States:

 photo magaly_zps5180b5b3.jpg

*All names have been changed

Photo by Loretta Principe released under Creative Commons License

Family and Medical Leave Act a Step Toward Reproductive Justice, But Still Leaves Many Behind

8:50 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Elizabeth Chen for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article was cross-posted with permission from the Center for American Progress.

An infant

The Family Medical Leave Act doesn't go far enough to protect all workers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law 20 years ago today and was a great first step toward supporting workers and workplace fairness. The law ensures that employees can receive 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to recover from a serious medical condition, provide care for a seriously ill family member, or care for a new child. Workplace leave, however, is not just an employment issue — it is also a matter of reproductive justice.

Reproductive justice stands at the intersection of traditional reproductive rights concerns, such as the decision whether to become a parent, and social justice issues. In addition, it centers on the reproductive health needs of the most marginalized populations, including women of color, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities, among others. In our 2006 report, “More than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights,” we set forth four cornerstones essential to a progressive reproductive health, rights, and justice agenda, including policies that support the ability to become a parent and to parent with dignity — meaning being able to financially, emotionally, and physically support a child’s basic needs — and the ability to have healthy and safe families and relationships.

Workplace leave is crucial for all people, but especially for low-income individuals seeking to become parents and have healthy families — a right to which we are all entitled. Historically, though, some parenting has been privileged at the expense of others, and not everyone has been able to exercise this right.

Laws and social movements, for example, encouraged white women to stay out of the workforce in order to provide full-time care for their children, while driving women of color — especially black women — into paid work, thus preventing them from being full-time stay-at-home caregivers to their children. Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow has documented how welfare policy for mothers in the late 19th century provided income support for them to stay at home. When access to such income support became increasingly available to black women during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, however, the rhetoric surrounding welfare became more negative. University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Dorothy Roberts explains that, “The central message of welfare reform is that recipient mothers are deviant for staying home and would better serve their children by finding jobs.”

To this day, programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides income support for families living in poverty, require work in the formal economy — or training for it — driving low-income parents into the workforce. Unpaid work within the home, including caring for families, does not satisfy the program’s requirements. This is not merely a historical remnant of former cultural biases — as recently as the 2012 presidential election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) claimed that he would require mothers receiving income support to either work outside the home or lose the support.

Furthermore, parenting itself is highly gendered in law and society, making it difficult for men to assume caregiving roles. Sex-role stereotypes, often historically codified in law, cast white women as caregivers and white men as breadwinners. Masculinity throughout the 20th century was defined by this stereotypical family wage system, even though working-class men and men of color were largely excluded from that system.

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From Saudi Arabia to the United States, the Human Rights of Domestic Workers Must Be Recognized

11:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Untitled

Domestic Workers

Written by Marianne Møllman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Wednesday morning this week, news broke that Saudi Arabia‘s authorities had gone ahead with the public beheading of Rizana Nafeek, a young woman accused of killing a baby in her care in 2005 when she was 17 years old. Nafeek insisted the baby had died in a choking accident.

The case had long been the concern of the international community, not only because the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane and should be abolished, but also because there are reasons to believe Nafeek had been forced into making a confession — which she later retracted — and that the trial against her was anything but fair. In addition, the young woman was a Sri Lankan migrant domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, had limited access to legal counsel, and is likely to have understood little of the legal proceedings, making the situation even more inhumane.

Rizana Nafeek, was among the approximately 1.5 million women, predominantly from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Philippines, working in private homes in Saudi Arabia. While some are treated well, domestic workers in Saudi Arabia enjoy fewer legal protections than any other type of workers, and human rights groups have documented horrific abuses against them, including physical brutality and deprivation of food, rest, and water.

But ill-treatment of domestic workers happens closer to home too. In the New York metro area there are an estimated 200,000 domestic workers, 99 percent of whom are immigrants. The abuse suffered by these workers was highlighted in a documentary in 2010, which also brought to light the lack of legal protection. Later that year, New York State became the first jurisdiction in the United States to pass a law to protect the rights of domestic workers.

In fact, most everywhere, domestic workers are subject to lesser legal protection than others, sometimes justified by reference to the difficulty in carrying out workplace inspections in private homes or the trite notion that domestic workers are treated as “part of the family.”  In mid 2011, the International Labour Organization adopted the first international treaty on the rights of domestic workers, providing hope for scores of women who are, even now, working without legal protection.

This is not a niche issue either. Across the world, an estimated 53 to 100 million persons — most of them women and girls — currently work as domestic workers. Some travel from rural areas to the city, others cross borders with or without permission. Their main motivation is to improve the situation for themselves and their families.

And it is perhaps this, the most human of conditions, that is lost in the back-and-forth over how and why some people “deserve” rights and other don’t: the search for survival and dignity through work.

This week’s execution in Saudi Arabia and the successful fight for legal protections for domestic workers in New York State highlight the central concept of humanity in the struggle for human rights.  Abuse is possible where domestic workers remain “other” — a foreigner, poor, a woman — and alone — isolated from their community and trapped in the workplace that doubles as “home.”  Change happens when we start seeing each other as humans, deserving of dignity and respect.
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