Food-service workers in Pennsylvania and their advocates want Congress to consider and support a new “Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights.” The document calls for livable wages, better working conditions and access to health care for restaurant workers.
Sammy Chavin, federal policy coordinator with the group Family Values @ Work, a movement of more than 2,000 organizations in 27 states, including the Pennsylvania chapter, said during the pandemic, more than 30 million workers lacked access to any paid sick time, and introducing a Restaurant Workers’ Bill of Rights in Congress could help change it.
“The Restaurant Workers’ Bill of Rights will ensure that all restaurant workers will be entitled to time to rest, time to heal, and time to live with the security of continued income and a job to come back to,” Chavin asserted. “We can create a world with an economy based on care, equity, and respect.”
She added months of outreach to restaurant workers across the U.S. helped determine what went into the document. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, close to 400,000 people work in food-service in Pennsylvania.
Debbie Ricks, now living in Washington, D.C., worked in restaurants for nearly 10 years. She said during the pandemic, she lost her job after taking a month off to deal with family matters. She believes if a “Bill of Rights” had been in place, it would have allowed her to take paid time off.
“The Restaurant Workers’ Bill of Rights, it will establish a relationship between employee and employer and define the rights of the worker,” Ricks contended. “My hope is that this Bill of Rights will alleviate the mental stress that comes with navigating the restaurant industry.”
Sekou Siby, president and CEO of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and ROC Action, which conducted a national survey of workers in the industry, said food-service workers were greatly affected by the pandemic, and need more protections.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated structural issues that restaurant workers have been facing,” Siby observed. “According to our study, that included responses from more than 1,000 restaurant workers, 85% of them experienced wage loss; 91% have received no compensation for working in hazardous conditions.”
Siby added improving conditions is also a matter of employee retention. Some 60% of restaurant workers in the survey said since the pandemic, they’ve looked for work outside the industry.