ROC United co-founder/co-director Saru Jayaraman says she once knew nothing about working conditions in the restaurant industry.
All of that changed after 9/11, when Saru, an attorney and activist, began working with displaced employees from the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant.
She quickly discovered that tipped workers earned a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Many didn’t receive paid sick days and had no opportunities for advancement. And in 2001, restaurant workers, nationwide, had no organization to advocate for them.
These revelations led Saru to co-found Restaurant Opportunities Centers NYC. Eventually, ROC developed into a national nonprofit which organizes workers, takes legal action, and provides education and advancement opportunities for restaurant employees. Most importantly, though, they educate the public on the conditions facing restaurant workers–and how to get involved to change those practices.
Saru, who is the author of the book Behind the Kitchen Door, talked about her experiences creating ROC, what Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is doing to create a better future for the restaurant workforce, and how you can help them make a difference.