Behind the Kitchen Door
How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? $2.13 an hour. And how do poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? The quality of the food depends not only on the sourcing of the ingredients but also from the attention and skill of the people who chop, grill, sauté, and serve. Increasingly, people are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for health and ethical reasons. Yet few of us are aware of the working conditions at the restaurants themselves. But whether you eat haute cuisine or fast food, the well-being of restaurant workers is a pressing concern, affecting our health and safety, local economies, and the life of our communities.
Saru Jayaraman is co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Behind the Kitchen Door.