This ROC Report on Philadelphia Restaurant Working Conditions Isn’t Making Ethical Eating Any Easier
You’re a good person, you don’t litter, you’ve learned not to be a Chilean Sea Basstard, you ask if the vegetables are locally grown even though you’re aware of that Portlandia sketch. Well, “Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry” released by Restaurant Opportunities Center is not gonna make you feel any better.
Here are just some of the uplifting data you will find inside:
- - 62.1% of Philadelphia restaurant workers fall below the poverty line for a family of three.
- - Average annual real wages in Philadelphia restaurants decreased by 11% between 2001 and 2011, while earnings for the total private sector increased by 8%.
- - Of all the workers surveyed in the study, 57.9% reported experiencing overtime wage violations and 40% reported working “off the clock” without being paid.
We asked veteran waiter with 12 years of service if he had ever earned any sick days and he simply said “Nope.”
When asked if any of his jobs offered any health insurance, he almost spit out his coffee. “Not ever, but sometimes I qualify for CHIP” In our brief talk, he admitted at other jobs he has worked while sick, and even with an injured knee but says he has learned it’s not worth the risk.
When asked if anyone in his restaurant was bringing in enough money to support a family above the poverty line, he replied. “The General Manager makes six or $700 a week, but he works three times as many hours as I do” (about 35)
This report is disheartening but not hopeless. The ROC categorizes restaurants as “High Road” and “Low Road” employers with the former stepping up and offering fair wages and benefits, and the latter choosing the path to profitability which included passing costs such as health and emergency room care on to the community.
Interviews with employers as well as survey data revealed that there are some restaurant employers that run a successful restaurant business while paying fair wages, providing workplace benefits, ensuring ad- equate levels of staffing, providing necessary training, and facilitating career advancement opportunities. Employers taking the high road found that fostering employee satisfaction decreases turnover costs (from training, recruiting, hiring, and low productivity during the initial phase) and increases worker productivity. Happy workers stay at the restaurant, develop relationships with regular guests, and help the restaurant run with consistent profitability.
Though Philadelphia restaurant jobs are growing at a rate far above total private sector job growth, 62.1% are below the poverty level and only 4.6% are what ROC would call a “liveable wage”
The ROC does have a list of suggestions you can peep in the report summary. The suggestions are for Policy Makers, Employers, Consumers and Workers. The ROC website itself seems like a pretty good resource for restaurant workers employers and Consumers including a downloadable Diner’s Guide offering ratings for various local and national spots. So you can be as kind to your servers as they were to the chicken.