Hundreds to Gather for Industry Summits Around Reports’ Findings: Low Wages, Few Sick Days and Lack of Health Insurance Among Restaurant Workers

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Three new reports on the wages and working conditions of restaurant workers in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC will be released on Monday, February 14 at city-wide summits organized by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United (http://www.rocunited.org/). These reports represent the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on these local restaurant industries, and were carried out with primary research support from university professors in all three cities.

Valentine’s Day is the restaurant industry’s busiest day of the year, but some workers are only making $2.13 per hour – the minimum wage for tipped workers. Speakers at the summits will include: Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed; Assistant Secretary of Labor Bill Spriggs; and Tom Saenz, General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF).

Legislation is expected to be introduced this month by Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD), which would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in twenty years from the current level of $2.13 per hour to $3.75 per hour. By 2012 the tipped minimum wage would increase to at least $5.50 per hour, if the bill passes.

In addition to the summits in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC, restaurant workers will be lobbying on Feb. 14 in Chicago (with Congressman Danny Davis and several state legislators), New York (with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke), New Orleans (with Congressman Cedric Richmond); Detroit (with Congressman Hansen Clarke); Atlanta (with Congressman John Lewis); as well as in Florida (with Congressman David Rivera) and Arkansas (with Senator Mark Pryor).

The three reports to be released on Valentine’s Day, entitled “BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington DC’s Thriving Restaurant Industries” are based on 1,704 surveys of restaurant workers and interviews with nearly 100 employers. The studies demonstrate that workers in one of the nation’s largest sectors largely lack paid sick days, fair wages and access to health insurance.

Posted 2/14/11