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FOCUS: Fair Pay for Restaurant Workers

By Mary M.
  | May 05, 2016

The restaurant industry is booming nationwide and in North Carolina, providing lots of employment opportunities: about 350,000 workers prepare and serve food in NC restaurants. Unfortunately, too many of these jobs don’t pay a living wage. In NC, one in three restaurant workers lives under the poverty line. About 80% get no earned sick pay, and therefore must choose between working while sick or falling short on their bills.*  Earnings from tips are hit-or-miss, and tipping results in inequities for both restaurant customers and servers.

These were among the issues that prompted a recent public forum dubbed “Forked Durham.” The event, held at Self-Help in Durham, was a conversation on food justice issues led by Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) and author of Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.  Saru was joined by Vimala Rajendran, owner of Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill, and Allan Freyer, Director of the Workers’ Rights Project for the NC Justice Center.

Among the issues discussed:

Anyone who eats in restaurants—and that’s virtually all of us—can make a difference by advocating for better restaurant labor policies and also supporting eating establishments with good labor practices.  The ROC United website offers “A Diner’s Guide to Ethical Eating” and other tools and information to support restaurant workers.

Self-Help was pleased to co-host the Forked Durham event with United for a Fair Economy, ROC-United, North Carolina Justice Center, NC Raise Up, People’s Alliance, Letters Bookshop and the North Carolina AFL-CIO.

* Data source: United for a Fair Economy

Hosts and speakers for Forked Durham event

Some of the hosts and presenters gather before the “Forked Durham” event. Back row: Brian Schneiderman and Martin Eakes of Self-Help; Michael Young of United for a Fair Economy. Front row: Vimala Rajendran of Curryblossom Café; Jeannette Huezo of United for a Fair Economy; and Saru Jayaraman of ROC United.  

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