Principles for Reopening America’s Restaurants – Safely and Equitably

The restaurant industry employs almost 10% of the entire U.S. workforce. COVID-19 has thrown millions of restaurant workers into unemployment, accounting for nearly one-third of private sector job losses. The economic impact has been severe industry-wide, but it has absolutely devastated low-wage tipped workers who were already on the economic margins. For the sake of everyone working in the industry, restaurants must reopen diligently, safely and equitably.

Support Health and Safety

  • Restaurants must provide proper safety equipment and training to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Restaurants must promote a culture of public health by explaining safety precautions to customers, and customers must be expected to respect the health and safety of workers.
  • Restaurants must abide by social distancing guidelines by maintaining six feet of distance between customers and should rely on outdoor seating as much as possible.
  • Workers must have access to paid sick leave benefits so they do not have to choose between making a living and potentially risking the health and safety of others. 
  • Employers that put workers and the public at risk must be held accountable.
  • Restaurants must take steps to address racial inequity as they reopen, including adopting best practices outlined in ROC United’s Racial Equity Toolkit.

Support and Protect Workers

  • Restaurants must provide hazard pay to all workers and guarantee compensation at pre-pandemic levels for tipped workers for the duration of the pandemic.
  • Restaurants must respect the right of return and call back previous staff in order of seniority as the restaurant returns to full capacity.
  • Employers must not retaliate against workers for sharing health and safety concerns.
  • Employers must uphold pre-existing collective bargaining agreements

Support Unemployed Workers

  • Federal and state officials should allow exceptions to the refusal to work condition for unemployment insurance. If a person receiving unemployment does not believe they can safely return to work, they should not lose their unemployment benefits for refusing to work. 

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