Berkeley universities

Restaurant workers seek rights-defining legislation / Public News Service

Restaurant workers fled the industry throughout the Great Resignation, with no end in sight.

In order to codify the necessities for better working conditions, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has worked to develop the Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights. The package of rights aims to provide restaurant workers with living wages, better access to health care, a safe working environment and participation in governance.

Teo Reyes, program director at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, says the bill is needed.

“The basic impetus for this is that we bring workers together to build power,” Reyes explained. “One of the steps will be to introduce these bills at the federal level in Congress, at the state level, and at the municipal level, and then move the components forward as the opportunity arises.”

This Bill of Rights will be presented to Congress in September. Months of outreach to restaurant workers across the United States helped determine what should be in the bill.

New York’s restaurant industry has seen 120,000 people leave for different jobs, according to a report of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in part due to low wages and rising prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York, workers in any industry can see what they are entitled to under Declaration of workers’ rights.

Reyes thinks the document will need to be updated to reflect the most current needs of restaurant workers. He shared some gripes the workers had, providing a clear path on what changes need to be made.

“It breeds a lot of unhealthy behaviors like binge drinking and late-night eating,” Reyes pointed out. “I’m not as healthy and I miss a lot of the next day to catch up on sleep. I think restaurants should provide health care and dental care. People have complained about rude customers, people complaining. complained about the schedule; like two weeks notice to schedule even in a small business.”

Not all survey responses were negative. Many of those interviewed praised their colleagues, and others felt it could be a very lucrative industry, which Reyes hopes to maintain by establishing the bill of rights.

Disclosure: Restaurant Opportunities Center United contributes to our fund for civil rights, human rights/racial justice, living wages/working families and social justice reports. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

get more stories like this via email