Worker Advocate: Nation’s Biggest Industry Fostering Poverty-Causing Wages

Common Dreams – by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The nation’s biggest industry is fostering a poverty-wage, low-benefit workplace, charges restaurant worker advocate Saru Jayaraman.

Co-founder and co-executive director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and author of the bestsellingBehind The Kitchen Door Jayaraman appeared on Up with Chris Hayes on Saturday and brought to light some of conditions that leave food industry workers forced to work sick and rely on food stamps.

Jayaraman said, “You’ve got the largest industry in America basically proliferating the lowest paying jobs with the least benefits,” and adds that “it also is the industry with the least amount of paid sick days, so the workers in this industry don’t have a way to get paid when they’re sick, which means two-thirds of them report cooking, preparing and serving food when they’re ill.”

Urging the need for some guaranteed minimum wage to provide a livable standard, Jayaraman notes: “Right now, food service workers use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce and suffer poverty rate of three times the rest of the workforce.”

The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13, a rate, Jayaraman notes, that has been at this level for 22 years.

Jayaraman is joined on the panel with chef Tom Colicchio, Andrew Moesel, spokesperson for the New York State Restaurant Association, and Victoria Bruton, restaurant worker and member of Restaurant Opportunities Centers.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What can the average diner do about the working conditions of the people who brought them their food? Jayaraman said in a recent appearance on Moyers & Company, “If consumers asked, every time they ate out, or said to the management, ‘Love the food, love the service, I would love to see you provide paid sick days, as a consumer that’s important to me,’ or ‘I would love to see you do better on your wages, not pay $2.13,’ just before leaving, we feel like that could make a tremendous difference in moving the industry.”

5 thoughts on “Worker Advocate: Nation’s Biggest Industry Fostering Poverty-Causing Wages

  1. It sounds to me like some food industry workers are getting a lesson in the arithmetic of globalization.
    When your standard of living declines to the point where it’s equivalent to that of a Chinaman slopping around in the mud of a rice harvest, you’ll be part of that happy “global village”.
    If instead you decide that your own country, and it’s resources, are indeed yours, and should be protected from those who are trying to steal everything, we can all “live off the fat of the land” for many generations to come.

  2. This sounds like my job the other day. At the call center, it was so busy and we were so under-staffed and the manager was forcing us to take sales calls to improve their stats, even though they are a billion dollar corporation. Instead of hiring more or calling people in, they force us to work with what we got to save the company money (Communism) and it was so busy, that they wouldn’t allow people to go on their lunch break until the call volume went down (which was never) and would not even allow this one girl to take a piss break and she had to stand while taking calls. I am not kidding you. SLAVE LABOR! Liquidation Channel is the name of the corporation that I work at, people. I call it “Liquidation Communists” because they are half-owned by Indians from India while the other half are owned by corrupt corporate Fascists assholes and treat everyone like shit. They even have the balls to put a camera in our break room. I mean talk about insecurity. I bitched about it to the manager and she refused to do anything about it and said nothing will change and that’s the way it will be. Everyone else is pissed, but I’m the only one who had the balls to take it to the manager and bitch in her office. She had the look of fear behind her eyes, as she knew she was guilty but since no one else had the balls to do anything other than me, she just continued with it.

    Anyways, so things keep getting worse just as I told my co-workers it would unless they stand up. But, of course, what do I know. I have only lived and worked in Communist China for 5 years and saw the same “slowly cooking the frog scenario” a thousands times there and came back here to the U.S., only to find that the dumb-down sheeple are eating up the same exact Communist propaganda like a bunch of slaves because they fear getting fired and not having a job. It’s total Asian business tactics. Company first, workers second. Communism. I have had to deal with this shit for 5 years in a real Communist country, so I’m no stranger to corrupt Communist businessmen and tactics. They don’t understand that the more they do this, the more the corporation will walk all over them.

    When are the people going to FIGHT BACK DAMMIT!!!???

    Anyways, I’m in the process of trying to find another job, but it’s so damn difficult as anyone knows these days. Got turned down on one, but I will keep trying. In the meantime, I am waking up quite a few people at the Liquidation Channel and many know what’s going on, but refuse to say anything until I mention something about it, as though they fear for their lives or of getting fired or something if they are the first to say something. Typical. People need to grow some balls again and let these businesses know WE THE PEOPLE aren’t taking any shit anymore!!!!

    1. Hi ya NC, Man I know exactly what you are talking about. I had a very dangerous job – dangerous because of the working conditions – I was making $13.00 an hour and I told them to go stck it because they wanted me to get out the F`n knee pads. they said that if I stayed with them that I would start all over at $18.00 an hour and that was 8 yr.s ago. They wanted me to coverup all of the violations when the inspectors were inspecting and be ok with violations that were ruining co-workers lifes – mine was already ruined working there but I wouldn`t. I sure could have used the money now but I`m telling you what NC, at least I feel good about myself and I can sleep at night. This was a shit job at a salvage yard if you know what I mean – they had good employees but my co-workers didn`t see what the employer was doing to the employes – all that my co-workers saw was that big pay check. Now they all want me to start a class action law suit against the business but no I will not – I do not play both sides of the F`n fence, In other words I do not believe in sueing any body. They want all the glory but they do not want to do any of the dirty work. I would rather se the damned place shut down for good………………….Hey there NC do the best you can and you just keep on keeping the faith eh bro. Keep your head up and stand tall. I hope you can find a job that treats their workers with respect.

  3. @NC I do not understand why companies continue in this same vein.

    W Edwards Deming taught the Japanese how to reconstruct their economy.

    I am reading his book on quality called the bible by some. I read it and it was like I had read it before because every concept in this book is what I used in my work when I was allowed.

    Very simple truths such as higher quality = lower cost and lower cost do not necessary mean higher quality.

    Here is the first part of multi series video on him.

    1. They continue to do this because as long as they inhibit that psychological fear in people, they know that they will always be able to get away with it.

      Just as everyone says, everything in the world today is one big psychological warfare meant to manipulate and enslave you. WE THE PEOPLE need to wake up and break the psychological barrier in order to live and be free again.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.