From November 18th to the 24th, the Food Chain Workers Alliance and food workers from around the country are celebrating the first annual International Food Workers Week! As stated by the Restaurant Opportunities Center, “the purpose of this week is to highlight the issues faced by workers all along the food chain – from farms to meatpacking plants to trucking to retail to restaurants.” Some of these issue include low wages, lack of health benefits, such as paid sick days, and of course wage theft and discrimination.
Don’t you think there’s something wrong here, when only one tenth of the people who cook, prepare and serve your food are able to care for their health when sick? Meaning, only one tenth of all restaurant workers have access to paid sick days.
You would think that for Corporations like the Darden – the world’s largest full-service restaurant company with annual sales of over $8.0 billion and with more than 2,000 restaurants across the World, this would be different. Darden’s mission is to maintain standards, nurture sustainability, nourish a rich diversity, while preserving their culture. But for workers like Keith, after years of working at Capital Grille, the nurturing and sustainability was only a promise that never materialized.
“One of the core values of the Capital Grille is to treat everyone with dignity, respect, honesty and integrity. I was a firm believer in that, but after years of working at the Capital Grille, I came to realize that not everyone was treated that way. I realized that workers were not treated with dignity and respect. The ability to have career advancement, a stable income, and support yourself and your family financially is important. Having health care benefits in this day and age, especially in the hospitality industry, and to be able to take a day off if you do become ill is as important as well. Working in the restaurant industry, you come across several people on a daily basis and the transfer of germs is evident. To be able to take a day off if you do become ill is important because you shouldn’t have to choose between going to work sick and making an income. In fine dining establishments, such as the Capital Grille, anytime the guest may get up and leave the table, we are required to fold the napkin for presentation upon the return of the guest to the table. Guests use this napkin to clean their faces, mouths, and if one of the guests is sick, we inevitably come in contact with those germs, putting our health and that of our co-workers at risk.”
Keith Jones is one of the worker leaders who exactly a year ago, with the help of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Washington DC, launched what is now a national campaign against the Capital Grille and its parent company, Darden, for issues of discrimination, wage theft, lack of paid sick days, and countless other unfair labor practices. After years of working at the Capital Grille, Keith came to realize that promises of prosperity and dignity, unless backed with concrete benefits, were not enough to feed and care for his family. Like Keith, about two thirds of workers have reported going to work sick. You can’t imagine this? Well, check out this new video produced by the Restaurant Opportunities Center – United and learn the truth about your meal, and the harsh reality of restaurant workers not having paid sick days. Then don’t forget to sign the petition supporting paid sick days for all restaurant workers in the District.