“Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry” reveals shocking evidence of injustice and inequality in one of Philadelphia’s fastest growing economic sectors
Philadelphia, PA , October 10, 2012 – Today, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia hosted a Summit to discuss the startling findings of our new report, Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industryand the implications for Philadelphia’s economic development, public health, and working conditions. Speakers included Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of Keystone Research Group, City Councilman James Kenney, City Councilman William Greenlee, Jeanne Chang owner of Lil’ Pop Shop and other owners and restaurant workers.
According to Stephen Herzenberg, “Restaurant industry worker, consumers, and good employers all suffer because other employers take the low road to profitability, paying low wages, and few or no benefits. Behind the Kitchen Door provides fresh and compelling evidence of this reality but also makes clear that it doesn’t have to be that way. The report provides a road map to a Philadelphia restaurant industry with better jobs, high-quality service, and better health for workers and restaurant
customers.” Currently in Philadelphia, 62.1% of restaurant workers fall below the poverty line for a family of three. Victoria Bruton, a 40 year old African American woman with 2 daughters and 22 years of experience as a server in the restaurant industry, experienced this firsthand. “We lived with my parents because it was impossible for me to support myself and my children while making approximately $200 to $350 a week…We were eligible for food stamps, Medicare and subsidized day care. Vacations, a car and our own home were luxuries that we could not afford, nor was maintaining a savings account.”
Additionally, Philadelphia surpasses the national average of restaurant workers who lack access to earned sick days, with a startling 92.8% of restaurant workers without earned sick days. According to Steven Herzenberg, “without access to earned sick days, restaurant workers in Philadelphia are regularly faced with the unfair choice of keeping their job or taking care of their health.”
Low wages and a lack of benefits available to restaurant workers has resulted in nearly 12% of restaurant workers relying on emergency room care when they are unable to afford medical care. Jason Robbins, a career cook with 15 years experience, reports that emergency room care has been his primary source of medical care. “Last month I was hit by a truck while riding my bike. I had to take a few weeks off work and as a result I didn’t have enough money to pay my rent. Tomorrow I am getting evicted. C’est la vie of a restaurant worker.”