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Behind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City's Thriving Restaurant Industry

Behind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City's Thriving Restaurant Industry

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Published by ROCUnited
In 2005, ROC-NY released Behind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City's Thriving Restaurant Industry, the most comprehensive study of New York's restaurant industry ever conducted. The research included 530 surveys of restaurant workers, 45 worker interviews, 35 employer interviews, and government data analysis. The findings illustrated the great need for reform that can achieve a sustainable industry in which workers, employers, and diners can prosper together.

Findings

● In 2004, the median wage for New York City restaurant workers was only $9.11. Nevertheless, New York still has good restaurant jobs, as one fifth of workers make a livable wage, showing that it is possible in this industry.
● 84% of New York’s restaurant workers do not get paid sick days.
● 59% of workers have experienced overtime violations, and 57% do not always get legally required breaks.
● 33% of workers reported that they have experienced verbal abuse on the basis of race, immigration status, or language.
● Poor working conditions can have a negative impact on consumers. 18% of workers that have experienced labor violations reported that they have cut corners while working in ways that may have harmed consumers, compared to only 3% of workers that have not experienced labor violations.
In 2005, ROC-NY released Behind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City's Thriving Restaurant Industry, the most comprehensive study of New York's restaurant industry ever conducted. The research included 530 surveys of restaurant workers, 45 worker interviews, 35 employer interviews, and government data analysis. The findings illustrated the great need for reform that can achieve a sustainable industry in which workers, employers, and diners can prosper together.

Findings

● In 2004, the median wage for New York City restaurant workers was only $9.11. Nevertheless, New York still has good restaurant jobs, as one fifth of workers make a livable wage, showing that it is possible in this industry.
● 84% of New York’s restaurant workers do not get paid sick days.
● 59% of workers have experienced overtime violations, and 57% do not always get legally required breaks.
● 33% of workers reported that they have experienced verbal abuse on the basis of race, immigration status, or language.
● Poor working conditions can have a negative impact on consumers. 18% of workers that have experienced labor violations reported that they have cut corners while working in ways that may have harmed consumers, compared to only 3% of workers that have not experienced labor violations.

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Published by: ROCUnited on Sep 15, 2011
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Behind the Kitchen Door:
PERVASIVE INEQUALITY IN NEW YORK CITY’STHRIVING RESTAURANT INDUSTRY
Primary Research Support Provided by the Community Development Projectof the Urban Justice CenterAdditional Research Support Provided by the Brennan Center for Justiceat New York University Law School and the Community Service SocietyResearch, Writing, and Editorial Support provided by Remy Kharbanda and Andrea RitchieJanuary 25, 2005
By theRestaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) and the New York City Restaurant Industry Coalition
 
i
Executive Summary
B
ehind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City’s Triving Restaurant Industry was
conceived of and designed by the New York Restaurant Industry Coalition - a broad gatheringof academics, community economic development organizations, policy analysts and policy makers,immigration advocates, worker organizers, unions, and restaurant industry employers. It represents one of the most comprehensive research analyses of the restaurant industry in New York City, and builds on our July 2003 report,
e New York City Restaurant Industry Analysis: Quantitative Report
.e information summarized in the report is based on the results of 530 worker surveys, 45 one-hourinterviews with restaurant workers, and 35 interviews with restaurant employers in New York City. eresults of this primary research are supplemented by analysis of secondary industry and government data,as well as a review of existing academic literature.Our study was inspired by the need for examination and analysis of the overall health of an industry sofundamental to New York City’s economy and so critical to the lives of thousands of restaurant workersand employers. e restaurant industry is an important and growing source of locally based jobs, andprovides considerable opportunity for development of successful businesses. It is therefore essential tomake information about the industry from the perspectives of both workers and employers available to allstakeholders to ensure the industry’s sustainable growth.
A Resilient and Growing Industry
New York City is home to a vibrant, resilient, and growing restaurant industry. Close to 15,000 foodservice and drinking places, including some of the nation’s largest and most profitable, make significantcontributions to the city’s tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors and to its economy as a whole.In 2000, the industry accounted for over $8 billion of the city’s revenue, a figure projected to increase to$13 billion by 2010. Since 1995, employment growth in the food services sector has outpaced that of NewYork City overall. Moreover, despite being hardest hit by job losses in the period immediately followingSeptember 11, 2001, the industry had recovered all lost jobs by 2003 (see further Chapter II).But perhaps the industry’s most important contribution to the city’s economy is the thousands of jobopportunities and career options it provides. New York City Restaurant’s employ more than 165,000workers – a number that is projected to increase by 14.6% by 2010. Moreover, formal credentials are not arequirement for the majority of restaurant jobs. e industry therefore provides much needed employmentopportunities to new immigrants, whose skills and prior experience outside the United States may notbe recognized by other employers, as well as to workers who have no formal qualifications and to youngpeople just starting out in the workforce.
Many Bad Jobs, A Few Good Ones
ere are two roads to profitability in New York City’s restaurant industry – the “high road” and the “lowroad.” Restaurant employers who take the “high road” are the source of the best jobs in the industry – thosethat enable restaurant workers to support themselves and their families, remain healthy, and advance inthe industry. Taking the “low road” to profitability, on the other hand, creates low-wage jobs with longhours, few benefits and exposure to dangerous, unhealthy and often-unlawful workplace conditions. Manyrestaurant employers in New York City appear to be taking the “low road,” creating a predominantly low-wage industry in which violations of employment and health and safety laws are commonplace.
Executive Summary

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