Opinion: Restaurants - someone's mother works here
May 9th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
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Editor's note: Saru Jayaraman is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door, a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Nation's Restaurant News named her as one of the 50 most powerful people in the restaurant industry and she was recently included in CNN Living's 10 Visionary Women list.

About 80 million of us will head to our favorite restaurant with our Moms this Sunday. It’s considered one of the highest grossing days of the year for the restaurant industry. The world’s largest restaurant lobby, the National Restaurant Association, says that more than one quarter of American adults will celebrate Mother’s Day by dining out and nearly one in 10 more will order takeout or delivery.

The majority of restaurant servers working on Sunday will be women, millions of them mothers. They will be earning a sub-minimum wage as low as $2.13 an hour (the federal rate since 1991); their take-home pay will be mostly tips, whatever they have leftover, in some cases, after tipping out bussers, hosts, and the rest of the restaurant’s tipped staff.

Due to the instability of living off tips, these women are undoubtedly looking forward to Mother’s Day, even if it means not being with their own family, because serving a lot of customers usually increases what they can expect in tips.
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Subway CEO: 'Our owners have not done the right thing'
May 9th, 2014
12:45 PM ET
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Subway CEO Fred DeLuca said this week that "there's no excuse" for workers being paid improperly.

His remarks come after CNNMoney published an investigative report last week detailing how Subway is the fast food chain with the most wage and hour violations.

From 2000 to 2013, Subway stores racked up more than 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations, including failure to pay its employees the proper overtime rate, according to our analysis of data collected by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.
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Filed under: Fast Food • Food Politics • Human Rights • Labor Issues • Restaurants • Service • Subway


April 4th, 2014
12:05 AM ET
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In "the nation's salad bowl," as California's Central Valley is often called, fresh produce grows in abundance.

But for many area residents, healthy food is out of reach.

"Here we are in this agriculturally rich area and yet people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished," said Sarah Ramirez, an educator who grew up in the area.

"(Some) are working in the fields that feed the entire country and then they don't have the resources to support them and their health. It's heartbreaking."

For the last two years, Ramirez has been on a mission to build a healthier community in her impoverished hometown of Pixley.
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Filed under: Food Deserts • Food Politics • Human Rights • Hunger • Local Food • Local Heroes • Urban Gardening


The CNN 10 Visionary Women: Saru Jayaraman
March 24th, 2014
09:30 AM ET
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This Women’s History Month, CNN set out to highlight the efforts of 10 women who are helping other women find success, self-esteem and sometimes a safe haven. The women represent diverse fields: technology, fashion design, policy, activism, literature and skilled labor. What they have in common is a mission to empower their fellow woman. See the full list at CNN Living.

Saru Jayaraman wants you to eat with your mind full. The 38-year-old co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and author of “Behind the Kitchen Door” has spent her career fighting for service workers to get a fair wage in a respectful, safe environment. Most of those workers are women.

In an essay for Maria Shriver’s “The Shriver Report,” Jayaraman plainly laid out the facts: “Restaurant servers are three times as likely to live in poverty and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. work force. In a terrible irony, the women who put food on the tables of restaurant-goers everywhere are struggling to put it on their own.”
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February 27th, 2014
12:40 AM ET
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Love that chocolate Haagen-Dazs ice-cream? But what about the way its makers treat their farmers? How about KitKat and the way its production impacts the environment?

In a campaign to push big companies towards more ethical sourcing, international development group Oxfam is asking people to think about food producers' attitudes towards issues such as climate change and workers' rights the next time they dig into their favorite treat.
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