Advocate for Restaurant Workers Speaks Tonight

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Saru Jayaraman brings her national book tour for labor expose Behind the Kitchen Door to North Oakland tonight.

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Jayaraman, co-director of the group Restaurant Opportunities Center, will speak about the book and launch ROC Pittsburgh’s campaign targeting Capital Grille for alleged unfair labor practices, including rollbacks of holiday time. Capital Grille is part of Darden Restaurants Inc., which also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among other chains.

Jayaraman, who directs the Food Labor Research Center at University of California — Berkeley, has made her case on national TV, with the likes of Bill Maher and Bill Moyers.

She works to bring attention to the restaurant industry’s widespread low wages, lack of benefits, lack of paid sick days and racial and sexual discrimination. The “tipped minimum wage,” for instance, hasn’t risen since 1991, and many employed in the industry live in poverty.

Jayaraman also calls on restaurant-goers who’ve raised their awareness about sustainable foods to be more concerned with how restaurant workers sustain their livelihoods.

Her tour occurs amidst a wave of strikes by fast-food workers demanding better pay. Others who’ve taken up such issues include New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. Among companies accused of mistreating workers, Darden, for one, has fired back.

ROC United claims more than 10,000 members in cities across the U.S.

Jayaraman’s talk is at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, 605 Morewood Ave. The event is free.

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