Guild Seattle’s Joey Burgess spoke about how the bar’s ownership group was bucking bad trends during the report release event. (Image: CHS)
As the rise of Capitol Hill’s food and drink economy continues, a new report claims many of Seattle’s workers are not coming along for the ride. A survey of 524 restaurant employees by the labor group Restaurant Opportunities Center found many workers were poorly informed of their rights, faced unpredictable schedules, and are not properly compensated for working overtime.
Among the most concerning findings: only 37% of restaurant workers were aware of the city’s paid sick leave law and 74% reported that they don’t have access to it. Nearly a third said they were concerned they would be fired be if they called in sick. Moreover, a fifth of those surveyed reported working off the clock without getting paid.
According to the labor group’s study, Seattle’s restaurant industry employs 86,000 workers at 5,400 establishments.
The non-profit Restaurant Opportunities Center’s mission “is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low wage restaurant workforce.” The group grew out of New York City and has since expanded to 32 U.S. cities. The Seattle report is part of a wave of survey results being released about inequity in the nation’s restaurant industry.
ROC-Seattle will be discussing its findings Thursday afternoon at the Comet along with Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant.
UPDATE (3:30 PM): Speaking at the Comet on Thursday afternoon, ROC United co-founder Saru Jayaraman highlighted one finding in the report she found particularly troubling: Among Seattle’s “front of the house” workers, white men earned $5 more per hour on average over women of color. Thats a $1 more than national average, Jayaraman said. According to the report, white men earned a median wage (plus tips) of $18.83/hr compared to $13.55/hr for women.
“The tip schedule definitely hurt women of color the hardest,” Jayaraman said, referring to Seattle’s minimum wage law which gives smaller companies more time to get tipped employees to $15 an hour.
The study release event was the culmination of two years of interviews and analysis conducted by ROC-Seattle. It’s the 15th study the organization has completed on restaurant industries in cities and states across the country.
In an effort to crack down on wage theft, Sawant said she was pushing for a bill that would require employers found guilty of wage theft to compensate workers triple the amount they’re owed. “The report ROC has come up with really shows the urgency of the need to get bills like that passed by the City Council,” Sawant said. Continue reading