637 S. Victory Blvd.| Burbank, CA 91502 | Phone: (818) 567-4400 | Fax: (818) 567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com
What Goes on Behind the Kitchen Door
By Sarah Henry on Saru Jayaraman
Behind the Kitchen Door reveals the real plight of many restaurant workers.Photo: Courtesy ROC-UnitedMost self-respecting, food-focused, restaurant-goers can wax on about the provenance of their poultry, chat with their local produce farmer on a regular basis, or rattle off the names of severalfine-dining restaurants, the celebrity chefs who run them, and their signature dishes. Someconsumers are even on friendly terms with the waitstaff and bartenders at their regular haunts.But few diners can tell you much – if anything — about the largely invisible army of restaurantworkers who make eating out possible. With 10 million members in their ranks these employeesrepresent the largest sector of the U.S. workforce. And yet these servers, bussers, runners, cooks,and dishwashers, who are the lifeblood of many restaurants, scrape by on some of the lowestwages in America, putting food on diners’ tables at the same time they struggle to make enoughmoney to feed themselves and their families.Up until the Twin Towers fell,Saru Jayaramanhad never given much thought to the lives of restaurant workers. And then the young labor lawyer got a call from a union leader representingworkers fromWindows on the World, the restaurant that had graced the top of the World TradeCenter. After the 9/11 tragedy some 250 workers were displaced (73 of their coworkers perishedon the day) and they wanted their former boss to make good on his offer to hire them back whenhe opened a new restaurant. With the help of Jayaraman and one of the headwaiters fromWindows on the World, Fekkak Mamdouh, the restaurant workers secured new employment for several former staffers, a victory that was covered by the
New York Times
. Jayaraman cofoundedthe nonprofitRestaurant Opportunities Center (now ROC-United)with Mamdouh, and she hasn’tstopped thinking about the working conditions and wages of restaurant workers ever since.