Protestors have taken to the streets of Beverly Hills accusing Urasawa, one of the country’s most exclusive and expensive restaurants, of theft. The victims however, are not the well-heeled patrons but are instead the servers and kitchen staff who were cheated out of compensation.
Urasawa, a world renowned Japanese restaurant, has been ordered to pay fines and back wages because it failed to pay overtime or provide breaks to employees.
Editor's note: Saru Jayaraman is the co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy organization, director of the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center and author of the forthcoming book "Behind the Kitchen Door" (Cornell University Press, Feb. 2013).
Like millions of Americans this winter, my toddler has the flu. The good news is that, unlike most of our nation's restaurant workers, my baby doesn't have to go to work sick.
Editor's note: Cristina L.H. Traina is a Public Voices Op Ed fellow and professor at Northwestern University, where she is a scholar of social ethics.
President Barack Obama should use the breathing space provided by the fiscal-cliff compromise to address some of the issues that he shelved during his last term. One of the most urgent is child farm labor. Perhaps the least protected, underpaid work force in American labor, children are often the go-to workers for farms looking to cut costs.
It's easy to see why. The Department of Labor permits farms to pay employees under 20 as little as $4.25 per hour. (By comparison, the federal minimum wage is $7.25.) And unlike their counterparts in retail and service, child farm laborers can legally work unlimited hours at any hour of day or night.
Relinda Walker still can't believe what she heard. Incredulity seeps into in her slow Southern drawl as she repeats the price – only 60 cents for a pound of organic Vidalia onions. Incredible.
Walker, an organic farmer in south Georgia has seen great change in her industry, but this price, about 40 cents cheaper than she could ever conceivably charge, really gives her pause. She wants to pay fair wages to her American workers, and she's unwilling to take on the compromise made by some other Georgia farmers, using inmates to process her crop.
Chef John Currence's recent essay on the use of immigrant labor in restaurant kitchens sparked a debate that's still raging in the article's comments section. Hundreds of people weighed in, and over 1000 comments later, several themes emerged: work ethics of immigrants, why Americans don't seek restaurant jobs, and who bears the cost in the end.
But first, the results from our poll, which received over 21,000 votes:
If you knew a restaurant hired undocumented workers, would you still eat there?
Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. John Currence is the chef and owner of City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, Mississippi. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance "Guardian of Tradition" award, and in 2009, he was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as "Best Chef South."
I am an odd animal. I am a chef and restaurateur with conservative fiscal views and liberal social ones. I consider myself reasonable.
While one part of me is extremely happy with the executive order President Obama issued last week which will allow certain younger, "qualifying" immigrants to apply for work permits, without fear of reprisal, another part of me is entirely disappointed that this homogenized edict is as far as he was willing to go in, what amounts to, an attempt to grab a fistful of votes in the coming election.