• Press

STATEMENT
For Immediate Release: November 20, 2014
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria [at] rocunited [dot] org, 720.352.6153

Restaurant Employers and Leading Restaurant Workers’ Rights Advocate Hopeful President Obama’s Immigration Plan Will Make Industry Better Workplace for Millions

Executive Action Positive First Step but Excludes Millions of Workers and Their Families Who Power our Food System

“The restaurant industry — one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of our economy — has built its profits on the backs of immigrant workers, and while unscrupulous employers exploit dedicated employees who are striving to make a better life for their families, the threat of deportation forces workers to accept dismally low wages, dangerous working conditions, back-breaking hours, and even sexual harassment and violence,” said SARU JAYARAMAN, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. “This Executive Action means millions can begin to work without fear and stand up to abuse in the workplace. However, with no protection for farm workers or parents of undocumented children, countless members of our communities will continue to live in fear of being separated from their families. The millions of immigrants that labor throughout the food system to feed this nation should be able to live and work with dignity.

“ROC exists because of the commitment and vision of immigrant workers — our co-founder, Fekkak Mamdouh, originally from Morocco, had more than 20 years experience working in the restaurant industry before helping to start ROC-NY shortly after September 11, 2001, and our first member Sekou Siby, originally from Côte D’Ivoire, has empowered hundreds of restaurant workers originally as the Executive Director of ROC-NY, and now as ROC United’s Co-Deputy Director.”

“I am grateful that President Obama is taking action to hold the restaurant industry accountable for the unfair conditions that many restaurant workers experience, but particularly immigrant workers, said ROSE SAIA, member of RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment) and owner of The Local Table in Acton, MA. “Restaurants should not be able to offer food, sometimes at unrealistically low prices, while making profits on the backs of a workforce that is being exploited. Restaurants who take advantage of immigrants create an unfair playing field for independent owners who offer living wages and benefits to their staff. We are a nation that takes pride in those who work hard and do so to improve themselves and their families. It is time for us as a nation to act on that pride on behalf of immigrants who work hard every day.”

“The restaurant industry’s growth and success would be impossible without the hard work of millions of immigrants, said PAUL SAGINAW, RAISE steering committee member and founding Partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. “As members of RAISE, we support President Obama’s Executive Action because it will help the entire restaurant industry treat immigrant workers with the respect they deserve, bring relief to millions of families, and make restaurants across the country safer places to work.”

“As a restaurant owner and immigrant,” said ANDY SHALLAL, owner of Busboys & Poets in D.C. and member of RAISE, “I am hopeful that this Executive Action by the President will be a step toward a truly just and humane immigration policy.”

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RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment) is an association of industry leaders, restaurant owners, general managers and entrepreneurs who are committed to advancing and creating an equitable and sustainable restaurant industry. More info at http://rocunited.org/our-work/high-road/raise/

Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate, Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News), ROC United has grown to over 13,000 members across 26 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.