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Behind the Kitchen Door

Behind the Kitchen Door: ROC-LA Report Reveals Restaurant Industry Inequality

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Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge SAMROD SHENASSA
  • Samrod Shenassa

To many of the 276,000 people working the gritty, grueling jobs in Los Angeles' vast restaurant industry, the conclusions of a report released today by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of LA come as no surprise. Long hours, low pay, no health care benefits, no vacation or sick-time. Then there are subtle but pervasive problems like sexual harassment and racial discrimination (i.e. Latinos working most of the low-level jobs receive far fewer opportunities for advancement).

It's no accident ROC-LA chose to release "Behind the Kitchen Door" today. Valentine's Day is the single most booked -- and most profitable -- day of the year for restaurants. (It's an even bigger boon when the holiday falls on a Monday.)

The report isn't earth-shattering, but the cold, hard statistics about life in the local restaurant industry -- which accounts for nearly 1 in 10 jobs in the LA area -- are eye-opening. (A PDF of the full report is available here.)

The 13-month study, conducted in conjunction with UCLA, compiled the results of more than 500 worker surveys and dozens of one-on-one interviews with restaurant industry employees and employers. Some of the findings:

-89.8% of employers do not provide health insurance

-89.4% of employees do not get paid sick days

-58.3% of employees have worked when sick

-80.2% of employees do not receive regular raises

-75.4% of employees have never received a promotion

-44.1% of employees have experienced overtime wage violations (ex: worked more than 8 hours in a day without being paid time-and-a-half)

-29.3% of employees have done something that put their own safety at risk

-27.8% of employees have done something due to time pressure that might have harmed the health and safety of customers

-42.9% of employees were burned while on the job

-42.4% of employees were cut while on the job

In short, as much as we adore food and the chefs who make it, the vast majority of the bussers, runners, dishwashers, line cooks and waiters who are the backbone of the restaurant industry are getting a raw deal.


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