Tag Archives: Behind the Kitchen Door

Saru Jayaraman Talks with Bill Maher about Tipped Minimum Wage

Last Friday, ROC-United Co-Director and Co-Founder, Saru Jayaraman sat down to chat with Bill Maher and guests on Real Time With Bill Maher on the history of the tipped minimum wage and why it’s been frozen at $2.13/hour for the past 20 years. The restaurant industry employs 10 million people in the US; restaurant workers use food stamps at twice the rate of the rest of the workforce and are 3 times as likely to live in poverty. Saru Jayaraman chronicles the impact of the restaurant industry’s abysmally low wages on people across the US in her new book Behind The Kitchen Door.



ROC Co-Director to be on Melissa Harris-Perry Show Saturday Morning at 11am!

This Saturday, ROC Co-Director and Co-Founder, Saru Jayaraman will discuss important issues facing the restaurant industry with Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show. As Saru Jayaraman chronicles in her new book, Behind The Kitchen Door, the restaurant industry is in urgent need of change: from increasing the federal tipped minimum wage from $2.13, providing paid sick days to the industry’s 10 million workers, to ending industry-wide sexism and racial discrimination. Saru will discuss all of these issues with Melissa this Saturday at 11am. Be sure to tune-in!

Saru Jayaraman Discusses Sustainable Labor & Recipes for Change with Sarah Henry of Bay Area Bites

Saru Jayaraman recently sat down to chat with Sarah Henry of Bay Area Bites. Sarah is a prominent food journalist; in addition to writing for a variety of food-focused publications, Sarah runs the blog Lettuce Eat Kale. Saru’s new book, Behind The Kitchen Door, argues that the momentum for increased food system transparency must be include food-service workers. Sarah Henry correctly notes that, “few diners can tell you much – if anything — about the largely invisible army of restaurant workers who make eating out possible. With 10 million members in their ranks these employees represent the largest sector of the U.S. workforce. And yet these servers, bussers, runners, cooks, and dishwashers, who are the lifeblood of many restaurants, scrape by on some of the lowest wages in America, putting food on diners’ tables at the same time they struggle to make enough money to feed themselves and their families.” That is why Saru Jayaraman wrote Behind The Kitchen Door. Throughout Saru’s interview with Sarah, they discuss the ways in which we can collectively strengthen the notion of “eating ethically” and bring sustainable labor practices to our country’s restaurant workforce.

Read the entire interview here.

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Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry

Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry is a project of the Philadelphia Restaurant Industry Coalition—a broad gathering of academics, progressive organizations, restaurant workers and restaurant employers.

This report represents the most comprehensive research analysis ever conducted on Philadelphia’s restaurant industry.This research shows that some employers run successful restaurants by setting fair wages, benefits,and working conditions, thereby fostering employee satisfaction, lowering turnover costs, and increasing  worker productivity. However, the research also shows that Philadelphia restaurant jobs are far more frequently bad jobs, characterized by low wages, little or no benefits, and abusive working conditions. Because the restaurant industry is an important and growing source of locally based jobs, efforts must be taken to ensure that job quality in this sector allows for the long-term prosperity of Philadelphia’s restaurant workers, employers, and consumers.

Some of the findings in the groundbreaking report include:

      • 62.1% of Philadelphia restaurant workers fall below the poverty line for a family of three
      • Average annual real wages in Philadelphia restaurants decreased by 11% between 2001 and 2011, while earnings for the total private sector increased by 8%
      • Of all the workers surveyed in our study, 57.9% reported experiencing overtime wage violations and 40% reported working “off the clock” without being paid
      • Whereas white workers’ median wage is $11.29, the median wage for workers of color is $9.00. The wage gap is even greater when comparing women’s median wages: $11.47 for white women and $8.00 for women of color
      • 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. Given the low wages described earlier and the fact that 12 in 13 workers do not have access to paid sick days, it is not surprising that nearly two-thirds of Philadelphia restaurant workers (64.6%) have worked while sick. Nearly three out of four (71.7%) of those that worked while sick said that they could not afford to take the day off without pay, and almost half (46.4%) said that they were afraid of being fired or penalized for staying home.
      • 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.
      • 19% of Philadelphians in the restaurant industry rely on public health insurance.

Download full report here.

The Philadelphia Restaurant Industry Coalition Partners Include: Action United, Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA), Community Legal Services, Jobs with Justice – Philadelphia, Juntos, Media Mobilizing Project, New Sanctuary Movement, PathWays PA, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Philaposh, Philadelphia CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women), The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia, The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Dennis Brunn, Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Advocacy Network, Thomas Cronin, President Emeritus of AFSCME D.C. 47 and D.C. 47 Retiree Chapter, Stephen Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center, Brishen Rogers, Assistant Professor of Law, Temple University

National Day of Action Gets Major Media Coverage

The National Day of Action was covered by over a dozen national and local media sources. Below is a listing of the most relevant ones.


Time – http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/02/17/remember-to-tip-report-shows-waiters-are-underpaid-overworked-and-unequally-treated/

Labor Notes – http://labornotes.org/2011/02/restaurant-employees-call-higher-wages-tipped-workers

Daily Kos – http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/16/945486/-Minority-restaurant-workers-get-the-shaft-

Miami Herald – http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/14/2065332/miami-dade-restaurant-workers.html

WTOP – http://www.wtop.com/category/District-of-Columbia/20110214/Waiters-rally-for-higher-wages-on-restaurants%27-busiest-day/

CareerDiva – http://www.evetahmincioglu.com/web/blog/2011/02/14/valentines-dinner-no-champagne-for-busboy/

LA Times – http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2011/02/new-study-treatment-of-los-angeles-restaurant-workers.html

Washington Post – http://voices.washingtonpost.com/all-we-can-eat/books/lunch-room-chatter-the-47-poun.html

Kansas City Star – http://economy.kansascity.com/?q=node/9829

LA Times – http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2011/02/behind_the_kitchen_door_roc-la_report_reveals_restaurant_industry_inequality.php

Florida Trend – http://www.floridatrend.com/article.asp?aID=54534

Colorlines Magazine – http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/02/dont_just_tip_your_waiter_demand_equity_for_restaurant_workers.html

NBC Washington – http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local-beat/Local-Leads-21411-116158779.html

FOX DC — http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/dc-restaurant-workers-pick-valentines-day-to-complain-about-low-wages-021411

We Love DC — http://www.welovedc.com/2011/02/14/study-of-dc-restaurant-workers-shows-widespread-abuse-and-health-risks/

Alternet - http://www.alternet.org/rss/breaking_news/473874/don%27t_just_tip_your_waiter._demand_equity_for_restaurant_workers/


Village Voice – http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2011/02/white_restauran.php

In These Timeshttp://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/6967/no_romance_in_valentines_day_for_restaurant_workers/

Science Blogs - http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2011/02/behind_the_kitchen_door_low_wa.php?utm_source=editorspicks

The Glutster Blog — http://theglutster.com/2011/02/restaurantequality/

Epoch — http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/united-states/restaurant-workers-lobby-for-minimum-wage-increase-51625.html

The Eater — http://eater.com/archives/2011/02/17/surprise-restaurant-workers-lack-sick-days-and-health-insurance.php

WUSA — http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=136704&catid=28

Behind the Kitchen Door - A multi-site study of the restaurant industry

Behind the Kitchen Door: A Multi-site Study of the Restaurant Industry

On February 14th, 2011, in conjunction with three local ROC affiliates, ROC-United released Behind the Kitchen Door: A Multi-site Study of the Restaurant Industry, an overview of conditions in the restaurant industry nationwide through studies in eight regions throughout the country.  The research included more than 4000 surveys, 240 employer interviews, 240 worker interviews, and government data analysis.  The findings illustrated the great need for reform that can achieve a sustainable industry in which workers, employers, and diners can prosper together.


  • The average yearly income for restaurant workers nationwide in 2009 was $15,092, compared to $45,155 for the total private sector.  Each locality reported between 9% and 22% of workers earning a livable wage.
  • 87.7% of workers nationwide do not have paid sick days.
  • Almost half of restaurant workers (46.3%) have experienced overtime violations.
  • Racial discrimination is widespread in the restaurant industry.  28% of workers that have been passed over for a promotion reported that it was based on race.  This discrimination is reflected in workers’ wages, as the median wage for white workers is $13.25 compared to $9.54 for workers of color.
  • 34.6% of workers reported having to do things under time pressure that may     have harmed the health and safety of the consumer.
Download the National Executive Summary here

Media Coverage