The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA) with similar organizations in Miami and Washington, D.C., celebrated the release of two new labor reports earlier this month. The report, about the LA restaurant industry, was released on Valentine's Day, as it is the highest gross revenue day of the year for restaurants.
"Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality and Opportunity in Los Angeles, the Nation's Largest Restaurant Industry," was made available to attendees at ROC-LA's summit discussion where several industry experts, restaurant employees and employers, related their personal experiences in the industry.
One of the major reasons for the summit was to pressure Congress to pass, H.R. 631, which was recently introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.). The bill is an amendment to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and would establish a base minimum wage for tipped employees, like waiters. The current base wage per hour for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour. The bill looks to increase that wage to at least $5.50 by 2013 for tipped workers.
“Los Angeles County is home to a vibrant restaurant industry and continues to grow daily,” states the report, adding that it is a critical part of the “region's tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.” According to the report, contribution to California sales taxes alone accounted for an estimated $4.7 billion in 2007.
The report also found that this workforce represents almost 1 in 10 employed.
Despite its prominent presence in the marketplace, over half of these jobs are characterized by low wages, long hours, few benefits, and exposure to dangerous and often unlawful workplace conditions.
Paid sick days and health care are among the highest priorities. Sick workers forced to work to survive or avoid being laid off, are a risk to other employees and the restaurants' patrons. This can damage a restaurant's reputation and standing in the community.
Other improvements recommended in the report include paid sick days, penalties for illegal discrimination and sexual harassment.