Hundreds Gather for Industry Summits Around Reports’ Findings:

Low Wages, Few Sick Days and Lack of Health Insurance Among Restaurant Workers

Three new reports on the wages and working conditions of restaurant workers in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC, as well as a National Executive Summary, were released today, Monday, February 14, at city-wide summits organized by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. These reports represent the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on these local restaurant industries, and were carried out with primary research support from university professors in all three cities.


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  –


Labor Notes –



Daily Kos –


Miami Herald –




CareerDiva –


LA Times –


Washington Post –


Kansas City Star –


LA Times –

Florida Trend –


Colorlines Magazine –


NBC Washington –



We Love DC —


Alternet –


Good –


Village Voice —


In These Times –


Science Blogs –


The Glutster Blog —

Epoch —

The Eater —


Click below for the following reports:

Los AngelesBehind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, the Nation’s Largest Restaurant Industry. Click here for the Executive Summary.

Washington, DCBehind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Washington, DC’s Thriving Restaurant Industry. Click here for the Executive Summary.

MiamiBehind the Kitchen Door: The Social Impact of Inequality in Miami’s Growing Restaurant Industry. Click here for the Executive Summary.

Click here for the National Executive Summary: Behind the Kitchen Door: A Multi-Site Study of the Restaurant Industry.


Valentine’s Day is the restaurant industry’s busiest day of the year, but some workers are only making $2.13 per hour – the minimum wage for tipped workers.   Speakers at the summits included: Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed; Assistant Secretary of Labor Bill Spriggs; and Tom Saenz, General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF).


Legislation was also introduced on 2/14 by Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD), which would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in twenty years from the current level of $2.13 per hour to $3.75 per hour. By 2012 the tipped minimum wage would increase to at least $5.50 per hour, if the bill passes.


In addition to the summits in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC, restaurant workers met with federal legislators on Feb. 14 in Chicago (with Congressman Danny Davis and several state legislators), New York (with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke), New Orleans (with Congressman Cedric Richmond); Detroit (with Congressman Hansen Clarke); as well as in Florida (with Congressman David Rivera) and Arkansas (with Senator Mark Pryor). Here are some highlights:

  • New Orleans, LA: ROC NOLA Members met with newly elected Democratic Representative Cedric Richmond and got a warm reception along with a near certain commitment that he will sign-on as a co-sponsor to the WAGES Act.  Even though he has no legislative staff in DC yet, The ROC Policy Team dropped off a packet of materials that was very well received.


  • Chicago, IL: ROC Chicago Members met with veteran Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and delivered a home-made heart-shaped cake. The timing for this visit was impeccable, as ROC Chicago members were meeting with Congressman Davis in Chicago the ROC Policy Team was meeting with his staff in DC.


  • Detroit: Also great timing and great turnout, ROC Michigan staff and a large group of members met with Hansen Clarke’s staff in Detroit and a few minutes later the ROC Policy Team met with his office in DC. His DC staff was very receptieve to ROC and was eager to establish a more lasting relationship.


  • New York, NY: ROC NY Staff led a delegation of leaders to meet with Yvette Clarke’s staff while the Policy Team met with her Chief of Staff in DC. It was a good meeting on both ends, and have to do follow-up to stay on her radar.


  • There were also delegations, op eds and other actions led by our allies in support of the National Day of Action in Immokalee Florida (CIW); Atlanta Georgia (9 to 5 Atlanta); New York (Brandworkers); Arkansas (NWAWJC), most were organized by Joann Lo of the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance – ROC is a proud member.  So thank you allies, you all get the “Solidarity Award”.

The three reports released on Valentine’s Day, entitled “BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington DC’s Thriving Restaurant Industries” are based on 1,704 surveys of restaurant workers and interviews with nearly 100 employers. They have been compiled with similar reports by ROC in five other cities into a National Executive Summary based on more than 4,300 worker surveys and 240 employer interviews nationwide. The studies demonstrate that workers in one of the nation’s largest sectors largely lack paid sick days, fair wages and access to health insurance. Tipped workers have not received a government-mandated increase since 1991, and worse, 11% of food workers in Washington, DC, 4% in Los Angeles, and 17% in Miami are illegally not earning the minimum wage, even after including tips in their salary.


As all the great activity was going on in the real world a national audio conference was taking place featuring Congreswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) Sponsor and Author of the WAGES Act, ROC United Co-Director Saru Jayaraman, and Director of Family Values @ Work, Ellen Bravo. The conference had great participation overall and has now become a source of reference for other members of Congress on our bill.


The media coverage, the Congressional visits, the national audio conference and the Summits all together make great strides towards putting workers and consumers first in our economy. Thank you for your support and let’s keep the heat on!