Lawmakers introduce restaurant workers’ bill of rights

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Image by Nenad Maric from Pixabay

In response to massive pandemic-related layoffs, new legislation in Congress would create a bill of rights for restaurant workers.

Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has sponsored House Resolution 1528, which was based on responses to a survey from Restaurant Opportunities Center United.

The survey found 85% of respondents reported losing wages, 91% got no hazard pay despite working during the pandemic and 34% say they were not provided protective equipment while working.

Sekou Siby, president and CEO of Restaurant Opportunities Center United, said the resolution would mandate employers create safe and dignified conditions for employees, provide ample time off and make access to affordable health care available.

“With 20 years of engagement with restaurant workers, we have heard loud and clear that the challenges, injustices and discrimination have many forms and intersect on many policies,” Siby asserted. “This is why we came together to propose a comprehensive and systemic remedy in the form of the restaurant workers bill of rights.”

The resolution is based on a document crafted by the center and endorsed by 55 food-service industry organizations, calling on Congress to mandate livable wages and better working conditions for the industry’s employees.

Many employees report being required to work major holidays, often with no additional compensation, and are provided no vacation, sick or personal time off.

Yannet Lathrop, senior researcher and policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said such practices amount to stolen income.

“Each year, wage workers lose an estimated $15 billion due to wage theft,” Lathrop reported. “Workers in the food and drink service industry are more likely to experience wage theft. Restaurant workers also need and deserve unemployment insurance laws that won’t penalize them for working part-time or if they are underpaid, as many wage workers are.”

Tlaib introduced the resolution on behalf of the center, which was formed by restaurant workers after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. It calls itself the oldest such organization in the country.

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