Stand with Restaurant Workers by Dining in – and Marching – on May 1
by Evelyn Rangel-Medina and Sophia Miyosh1
How often do you eat out? Are you concerned about the sustainability of our food system? Do you have friends and family who have worked in a restaurant? Are you a restaurant worker?
The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy, yet it remains as one of the most exploitative and racially segregated. This industry currently represents 7 out of the 10 lowest paid positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The situation is dire for workers of color. In the Bay Area alone, restaurant workers experience the largest gender and racial pay gap in the country (with workers of color earning up to $6 per hour less than their white co-workers in fine-dining restaurants).
Low-wage immigrant workers of color are the backbone of the restaurant industry. As celebrity Chef José Andrés notes, “Immigrants are part of the American DNA.” Yet the federal government–under Obama, Clinton, Bush and now the Trump administration all have and continue to pursue antiquated and harmful policies that destabilize working immigrant families. These policies particularly hurt the people who prepare and put food on our tables. We are talking about policies like the federal subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has remained stagnant at $2.13 per hour over the past 20 years! Trump’s attempt to ban immigrants and Muslims, and his promise to continue deporting millions of undocumented immigrants is another example of such policies. All of this ultimately endangers our entire food system and the restaurant industry specifically, which is the largest employer of immigrants.
The Bay Area’s restaurant industry is experiencing an immense labor shortage that makes it hard for many restaurants to keep their doors open. Over the last year, more than 60 restaurants have closed in the Bay Area, citing in part the cost of finding and hiring workers. The Trump administration is worsening the situation by rapidly and mercilessly persecuting and deporting immigrant workers. While immigrant communities have been living in a Trump-like America over the last couple of decades, this recent election has shown the rest of America that backward governing strategies strip the majority of Americans from economic opportunities.
We can and must do better. We must come together and build a restaurant industry based on equity, inclusivity, and love as the practice of freedom. We can do this now by demonstrating love for and unity with restaurant workers: the people who nourish our bodies and feed our spirits. Joining the International Worker’s Day strike this Monday will show your solidarity and love for restaurant workers. We ask you to join us by not dining out, by closing your restaurant and by not going to work. Now is the time to stand together as an intersectional food movement.
Bay Area restaurant industry leaders including Camino, Kingston 11, Cafe Gabriela, Ba-Bite, Reem’s California, Sol Food and Nick’s Pizza have committed to closing on May 1st. Additionally, they have committed to advance labor practices that respect, protect and uplift the people who feed and serve us. Aside from joining the strike, most of their teams of employees and management will be marching together to exemplify solidarity in the restaurant industry. Join us to march with over 100 restaurant workers to demand fair, dignified and just workplaces and put an end to the inhumane treatment of immigrant workers.
massive mobilizations around the country as a declaration that we are creating a place at the table for everyone and that we refuse to comply with the discriminatory policies of the Trump administration. We will continue to work together to build a thriving restaurant industry rooted in equity, inclusivity, and love as a practice of freedom.
Evelyn Rangel-Medina and Sophia Miyoshi, Restaurant Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay Area (ROC the Bay).
ROC the Bay is a restaurant worker center and advocacy organization that organizes and trains hundreds of workers. They also advocate for improved labor standards and higher wages and actively work with high-road employers to implement equitable and dignified workplace practices in restaurants throughout the Bay Area. www.rocunited.org
900 Alice St.
Oakland, CA 94607
Contact: Evelyn Rangel-Medina