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Restaurant Workers Plan Capitol Hill Push to Improve Conditions

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022   

Restaurant workers have been fleeing the industry throughout the Great Resignation. To reverse the trend, advocates in Minnesota and elsewhere argued employees need better working conditions, and they hope pending policy will help.

The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has been working to develop the Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights. It seeks to provide livable wages, better access to health care, a safe work environment and participation in governance.

Justin Taylor, a committee member for the Minnesota chapter of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and a restaurant worker, feels it's a comprehensive approach to long-standing issues.

"I definitely, definitely think this will be a fantastic way to fight the injustices that the restaurant workers have seen for a real long time now," Taylor asserted.

The proposal will be introduced to Congress in September, and organizers say months of outreach to restaurant workers across the U.S. helped determine what should go into the bill. Minnesota has seen nearly 20,000 people leave their establishments for different jobs, according to a report from the University of California-Berkeley's Food Labor Research Center.

The exodus was due in part to the combination of low wages and rising prices during the pandemic. Taylor added the turnover has had a major effect, with those still working at restaurants having to pick up the slack. Some employers have improved their pay and benefits, but issues remain.

"Every restaurant right now is just chronically understaffed, and we're not getting paid for the work that we're doing," Taylor contended. "There's very few places that offer paid sick leave."

Aside from pay, Taylor said the governance factor in the legislative proposal, such as having more say in scheduling shifts, could be another important tool in improving the well-being of restaurant workers.

Disclosure: Restaurant Opportunities Center United contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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