July 26 - August 22, 2007
Restaurant Workers Demand Action from
By HEATHER APPEL
A group of
restaurant workers showed up at Councilman Joel Rivera’s office last week to
urge him to hold a hearing on a bill that would help protect restaurant
workers from abuses in the workplace.
The Responsible Restaurant Act was introduced in the City Council on May 9
and was referred to the Health Committee, which Rivera chairs. It would
require restaurants seeking to renew operating licenses to disclose to the
Health Department any violations of city, state or federal labor laws and
minimum wage laws, and the city could consider this information when
deciding whether to renew licenses.
“We are not going to tolerate racial discrimination and not paying workers
in our community,” said Jeff Mansfield, a community minister from Judson
Memorial Church who spoke at a town hall meeting in the Bronx about the
bill. He said it’s an important step in protecting the over 160,000
restaurant workers in the city.
Under the legislation, New Yorkers could search for information on
employment violations at local restaurants on the health department’s Web
site, just as they are currently able to view health code violations.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), a workers rights
group, and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition co-sponsored
the town hall meeting July 18 at the Belmont Boulevard Apartments on East
185th Street to educate restaurant workers about their rights and garner
support for the bill.
Organizers expected Rivera to attend, and when he didn’t show up, the group
decided to go to him instead. They marched 10 blocks to his office on
Southern Boulevard and presented his staff with over 200 “menus” signed by
area residents demanding the Council take action on the bill.
Council staffer Angel Audiffred said the Health Committee was still
considering the legislation but that no hearings have been scheduled. “They
have to be patient and give the Council time to consider it,” he said in a
Marisol Ramos, a youth organizer who lives near Fordham Road, got involved
with ROC-NY after seeing her father struggle as a dishwasher and cook for 30
years at a City Island restaurant. Ramos translated for Julio Anzures, a
restaurant worker who left a job at the Park Avenue Café that forced him to
work 60 hours a week while he was only paid for 40.
According to “Behind the Kitchen Door,” a study released by the Urban
Justice Center and ROC-NY in 2005 that surveyed 530 workers, 60 percent were
not paid overtime, and 13 percent earned less than minimum wage.
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