Week After Philly Restaurant Report, Fight Begins in City Hall
Just a week after the Philadelphia Restaurant Opportunity Center released its “Behind the Kitchen Door” report, which details the wages and conditions under which restaurant employees work in Philadelphia, the fight for new workplace standards is on. But advocates have their work ahead of them.
Community organizing group Fight for Philly joined restaurant workers yesterday in City Council for preliminary discussions on what a new paid sick-leave bill would look like. The group posted photos of their lobbying efforts to Facebook earlier today.
“Basically, [we handed out] information on the bill and more information on the report that ROC just put out,” says Jesse Kudler, who handles communications at Fight for Philly. “It was just a bunch of us handling that stuff and trying to talk directly to councilmembers. [We also] had a bunch of restaurant workers with us telling their stories about getting sick and having to miss work and not getting paid.”
Kudler notes the group, which also included members of Pathways PA, Working America, and ROC, did not speak directly to members of City Council (all were unavailable) though they made meetings to do so.
When we spoke with Councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored last year’s paid sick-leave bill (which was vetoed by Mayor Nutter), he told us he’s ready to introduce a new bill this year, but would like to get as many councilmembers on board as possible before bringing it to the Council floor. “I want to introduce [the bill] next Thursday but I don’t think I’m going to introduce it until … we know we have the votes that can pass it,” he told PW.
But both the community organizing groups and those councilmembers supporting the bill have their work ahead of them. Not just because only nine members signed onto the paid sick-days bill last year, but because both the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (who did not respond to a request for comment) will likely be against the new bill. Flickers of a fight are already beginning.
“[The Pa Restaurant and Lodging Association are] saying this isn’t legitimate, and that we went and cherry-picked surveys of people who were treated really badly [at their restaurant job],” says Fabricio Rodriguez, head of the Philadelphia Restaurant Opportunity Center. “But, you know, our research mirrors that of the Department of Labor, and they don’t have any counter research to back up their claims.”
The research included in the 65-page report was drawn from 580 worker surveys, interviews with workers, interviews with employers, “existing academic literature,” and, yes, stats from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among those statistics the Philly ROC found in their report: One in five restaurant workers is on food stamps; 62 percent earn poverty wages; more than 83 percent have not received a raise in the last year; 92 percent lack earned sick days; 65 percent have worked while sick; and plenty more.
Rodriguez notes that similar organizations have released similar criticisms of other Restaurant Opportunity Center chapters in other cities, calling the biased research claim a “generic talking point.”
“Everything’s documented there,” he continues. “It’s uncontroversial.”
This blog has been updated to include comments from Fight for Philly.