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Restaurant workers in Chicago

Restaurant workers here average $17,844 a year, according to a survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Kari Lydersen reports at Working In These Times.

“Instead of providing a living wage and benefits to many of its employees, restaurant operators are competing by holding down wages and violating labor laws,” writes Adam Doster at Progress Illinois.

Fast food workers average $9 an hour, and fine dining workers average $14.61 an hour, according to the survey of 600 restaurant workers and 31 employers.  A majority of workers reported violations of wage, health and safety laws; over a quarter reported working “off the clock” without pay. Racial discrimination and sexual harassment are endemic.

“Hidden costs” include threats to public health (96 percent lack paid sick days and three-quarters reported coming to work while sick) and reliance on publicly funded health programs.

While “low road” managment is prevalent, the industry is not monolithic, and ROC highlighted “high road” employers like Junior’s Sports Lounge, 724 W. Maxwell, where a discussion of the report was held Tuesday morning, and the East Bank Club, 500 N. Kingsbury, whose restaurant director, Mike Romano, joined the discussion.

East Bank restaurant employees get a living wage, health insurance, paid sick days, and access to interest-free loans for family emergencies.

The report recommends that Chicago and other municipalities provide incentives like property tax credits to employers that offer living wages.  Other recommendations include laws mandating sick days and increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Chicago ROC plans to focus on fine dining restaurants to encourage more high road practices.  For background on the group see our earlier post.

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Category: labor

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