National Consumers League

Dining out? What you can do to improve restaurant workers' rights


Earlier this week, we were inspired by our local Restaurant Week to blog about the plight faced by many restaurant workers and promised advice for consumers who want to help set things right. Here's what you can do -- and remember, you can always cast your "vote" for restaurant workers with your wallet; don't patronize restaurants that don't treat their workers fairly -- and be sure to tell them why you're taking your patronage to places that do! What you can do to help:

  • Inquire whether your favorite restaurants allow their staffs to earn sick leave. Did you know that 63 percent of surveyed restaurant workers admitted to cooking or serving food while sick at some point during the past year? This is a public safety issue as much as it is a workers' rights one.
  • Pay your tip in cash so it will all go to your server
  • Inquire whether your favorite restaurants provide access to health insurance
  • Urge your favorite restaurants to join with more than 50 other restaurant owners in 8 cities that have partnered with ROC to promote improved wages and working conditions for workers who cook, prepare and serve our food.
ROC United, or Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – an organization representing restaurant workers – is asking restaurant owners to become members of the Restaurant Industry Roundtable to support higher wages for tipped and non-tipped workers, to provide sick leave and health insurance for all employees, and to provide opportunities to move up the ladder for all workers. And a new bill in Congress would raise the federal minimum wage for tipped employees for the first time in decades. Remember your power as a consumer and exercise it!