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


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

Comments () | Archives (5)

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Yet another reason to expell illegals from our restaurants and companies
Hire Americans

You are sounding very ignorant or snobby, at best.
Why would a job where one person provides sales, or expertise in the kitchen, or even resets tables and restocks less of a job then others. Why when people are dedicating their day to working not expect to be compensated fairly and live comfortably off such pay? What makes working in restaurants not a "real job"? How do you expect people to get to the point of opening their own restaurant without this valuable experience? I work in a respected restaurant with a college degree. Restaurants have been one of the most important educations for me. I am well versed on wine varietals, food preparations, exceptional cheese BUT the most valuable and real education has been on people in general. You always can spot a person who has never had this vital experience, serving people. They are the demanding ones, the complainers, the wave your hands "me first" attitude. I have a sneaking suspicion this behavior is sounding very familiar to you. Call it a hunch.

Unless you are are chef in a high end establishment, I'm fairly certain that working in a restaurant is not supposed to provide a 'living wage'. It's a job that teenagers and students use to get started in life. Attempting to impose 'living wage' nonsense on any low-end job is only going to drive up prices for the customers. If you are hoping that a restaurant job is going to provide enough income to 'live' on, then you are already in trouble. Get an education, improve yourself, and work your way into a real job that pays well, or even better, START your own business and hire others.

By the way, you might get more reader participation (if that's what you want) with "I'm a human" codes that aren't so difficult for humans to read.

Check the ROC-United Web site ( www.rocunited.org ) to get an understanding of what this organization is all about. I join with the U. S. Constitution in supporting the right of any group to organize and advocate its cause, but I don't look to activists for objective investigations. Can you imagine ROC-United publishing something that contradicts their core values? Would you believe research sponsored by tobacco or oil or pharmaceutical groups, for example, that "demonstrates" their members are wonderful and all the problems are caused by someone else? Shame on UCLA for providing the money for this exercise. The research findings of any faculty member with such a big ax to grind would never be credible.


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