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New study expected to paint bleak picture of how L.A. restaurant workers are treated

February 11, 2011 |  8:00 am

RestaurantWorker

Valentine's Day is often called the busiest day of the year for restaurants, which is why Monday is the day that Restaurant Opportunities Centers of Los Angeles has chosen to release the findings of a new study called, “Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, the Nation's Largest Restaurant Industry.”

The study, which was conducted with primary research support from UCLA's Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, is based on more than 562 surveys of restaurant workers and more than 60 interviews with employers and workers. Although the findings won't be released until Monday's industry summit at Taix French Restaurant, the report is expected to offer a bleak view on the treatment of L.A.'s restaurant workers, and of its immigrant population in particular.

According to ROC-LA, 82% of L.A.'s restaurant workers earn less than a living wage. They also rarely have access to paid sick days, health insurance or advancement opportunities.

"It's one of the most important issues out there," said Jason Michaud, chef and owner of the sustainable Silver Lake restaurant Local, who will speak on Monday's panel. "Latinos are treated terribly. It won't be corrected overnight, but hopefully it can be rectified eventually.”

Also on the panel: Robert Gottlieb, the director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute and coauthor of the book "Food Justice"; Jamie Dolkas, an attorney for Equal Rights Advocates; Abel Valenzuela Jr., the director of the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty; Luis Hernandez, a prep cook at a local franchise restaurant; and Nora Garcia, a server at a family-style restaurant.

The keynote speaker will be Thomas A. Saenz, the president and general consul of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The summit, which will take place on the same day as similar events in Miami and Washington, is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast. Members of the panel and the keynote speaker are to address the gathering beginning at 9 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend, and audience questions will be taken before the event wraps up at 11 a.m.

Taix French Restaurant, 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 484-1265; www.rocunited.org

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo credit: Victoria Arocho / Associated Press

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