Putting Restaurant Workers’ Rights on the Menu


In her weekly Diner’s Journal column in The New York Times, food writer Florence Fabricant highlights a recent foundation event focused on restaurant workers’ rights. To mark the release of “Behind the Kitchen Door,” a book by Restaurant Opportunities Center co-founder Saru Jayaraman, food movement leaders, policy experts and innovators gathered for a day of discussion intent on improving conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce—and on making those conditions a matter of concern for everyone who enjoys dining out.

Published in The New York Times

Front Burner

February 5, 2013
By Florence Fabricant

Shortly after 9/11, an organization called the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United was founded to help restaurant workers who subsequently lost their jobs. It has now become a national group, and its primary mission is improving conditions for restaurant workers. On Monday, the Ford Foundation held a half-day forum about how to persuade the restaurant industry to change the way it treats its workers, which is explained in a new book, “Behind the Kitchen Door,” by Saru Jayaraman, one of the founders of the organization.

One of the panelists at the event was Andy Shallal, a restaurant owner in the Washington area who offers overtime pay, health insurance and paid sick leave for his employees, unlike the vast majority of the nation’s restaurateurs, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers. He made an original suggestion: “When I got to New York today, I noticed how restaurants post letter grades from the Health Department. What if they also had to post letter grades indicating the quality of the conditions for their workers?”

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