Archive for the News Archive Category

Oregon Minimum Wage to Increase $ .15

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by pdxrwa

by William Pilgrim
10/03/2012

Oregon’s minimum wage will rise from $8.80 to $8.95 on January 1, 2013, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced in September. This is a victory for Oregon workers.  In most of the country minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and a ridiculous $2.13 per hour for tipped employees.

In Oregon the minimum wage applies to almost all workers, including those who customarily receive tips.  While the raise is designed only to match annual inflation (the overall yearly increase in prices), this wage increase, though small, means more money will be kept in our communities, and helps keep the gainfully employed out of abject poverty.

This wage translates into almost $18,000 per year before Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Income, and other taxes, barely enough for a single person to get by on, and certainly not enough for a family.  If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years, it would be $10.55 an hour.

Oregon Minimum Wage to Increase $ .30

Posted in News Archive with tags , , on September 18, 2011 by pdxrwa

by William Pilgrim
9/18/2011

Oregon’s minimum wage will rise from $8.50 to $8.80 on January 1, 2012, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced September 15th. This is a small but significant ongoing victory for Oregon workers.  In most of the country minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and a ridiculous $2.13 per hour for tipped employees.

In Oregon the minimum wage applies to most workers and this means that all workers in Oregon are getting a raise next year.  While the raise is designed only to match annual inflation (the overall yearly increase in prices), this wage increase, though small, means more money will be kept in our communities in the form of wages, and helps keep the gainfully employed out of abject poverty. 

This wage translates into $18,000 per year before Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Income, and other taxes, barely enough for a single person to get by on, and certainly not enough for a family.  

Know Your Kitchen! Workshops: Learn New Skills, Sharpen Your Technique

Posted in News Archive with tags , , on November 29, 2010 by pdxrwa

by William Pilgrim
11/29/10

The Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA) is proud to present Know Your Kitchen!, a nine part series of job skill training workshops at Bargreen & Ellingson’s test kitchen facility. Led by award winning chef Andrew H. Garrett, workshops begin January 3 and will cover everything from tools of the trade and knife skills to butchery and wine paring.

Following up on the success of the first Know Your Kitchen! series, the PRWA is hosting these workshops to help restaurant workers refine or acquire new kitchen skills. The Know Your Kitchen! series will be presented with the highest degree of professionalism, while still remaining accessible to the widest possible degree of restaurant workers. The workshops will provide workers with skills they need to advance in the restaurant industry, and allow already familiar workers to hone their skills.

Andrew H. Garrett, who will be leading the classes, began his career at 16 as a dishwasher at a pizzeria in California. Since arriving to Portland, Garrett’s been the Sous Chef at 23 Hoyt and currently is the executive chef at Cafe Nell. Garrett is excited to contribute to these workshops. He’s gained recognition through the People’s Choice Award as “Portland’s Original Iron Chef,” the Oregonian’s “Restaurant of the Month” and he continues to receive accolades in the local press for his work.

The Know Your Kitchen! workshops will cover everything from the basics to more advanced skills, catering to both novice and experienced workers. The workshops are made possible by donations from the PRWA, workshop instructors, and local suppliers. A $2.00 student contribution for each class is requested in order to cover the cost of course materials. Space is limited, so registration is required.

For complete details and to register, visit Know Your Kitchen!

Know Your Kitchen! Workshop Schedule:
Classes will be held each Monday beginning in January and ending in March:

  • Tools of the Trade, Product Identification, Vegetables and Cuts: Monday, January 3 5:00-8:00pm
  • Knife Skills 101: Monday, January 10 2:00-5:00pm & 5:00-8:00pm
  • Knife Skills 102: Monday, January 17 2:00-5:00pm & 5:00-8:00pm
  • Stocks and Sauces: Monday, January 24 5:00-8:00pm
  • Butchery: Monday, January 31 5:00-8:00pm
  • Asian Cuisine Ingredients: Monday, February 7 4:00-7:00pm
  • French Cuisine: Monday, February 21 4:00-7:00pm
  • Charcuterie: Monday, February 28 4:00-7:00pm
  • Wine Knowledge and Paring: Monday, March 7 4:00-7:00pm

Workshop Location:
Bargreen & Ellingson: Foodservice Supply & Design
3232 NW Industrial St.
Portland, OR 97210

Waitstaff and Other Restaurant Workers Committed to Spreading the Word: Dudley’s Not Good for Our Bottom Line

Posted in News Archive on October 31, 2010 by pdxrwa

October 31, 2010
by Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA)

The Portland Restaurant Workers’ Association and UNITE-HERE spent the last week educating workers about Chris Dudley’s statement against the minimum wage.

While Chris Dudley’s statements may not be a central campaign issue for him they touch on the central issue affecting our members’ livelihoods every day – how much money they bring home from work and whether it’s enough to support themselves and their families.

They also reflect his close ties to the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, which has continued to support a tip credit, an “opportunity wage,” and has donated almost $100,000 to the Friends of Chris Dudley campaign committee during the past year.

Chris Dudley’s support for a “tip credit” wage shows a clear misunderstanding of economics.  Cutting wages by up to 74% (from the Oregon minimum wage to the national minimum wage for tipped employees) is one of the worst things one could do during a recession.  It is a direct attack on the interests of working people.  How can we trust someone to be Governor and look after Oregon workers’ interests if they don’t understand the affects of a 74% wage reduction on those workers, and the subsequent affects on our state’s economy?

Restaurant workers are often younger and working class, and are less likely to vote than many other Oregonians.  We will be reaching out to these workers through phone banks, canvasses, and conversations at the workplace to ensure they have all the information about both gubernatorial candidates, and that they remember to vote.

Oregon Minimum Wage Increases to $8.50

Posted in News Archive on September 28, 2010 by pdxrwa

On September 20th, 2010, State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced that Oregon’s minimum wage would increase to $8.50 starting January 1st.  The 10 cent increase is a result of the 1.15% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  In 2002, Oregon voters approved Measure 25 which requires the state adjust the minimum wage to reflect inflation as measured by the CPI.

Oregon is just one of ten states that adjusts its minimum wage based on the rate of inflation.  The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) opposes the legislative requirement as bad for business and has organized to repeal the requirement in the state legislature in 2003, 2005, and 2009.   As a business association that represents the interests of restaurant and lodging owners who don’t live on the $17,680 per year income of a minimum wage earner working 40 hours a week, the PRWA believes that food-and-beverage workers should have the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their story about being a minimum wage worker in the restaurant industry.

To share your story, please email it to dishingitout@pdxrwa.org.  We’d like to hear what the increase in the minimum wage means to you and your economic security.  Do you think the minimum wage represents a living wage in the Portland metro area?  Please indicate if you’d like to be contacted for an interview and please include a phone number at which you can be reached.

Giorgio’s Restaurant Stiffs Worker, Worker Demands Unpaid Wages

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by pdxrwa

August 3, 2010
by Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA)

On June 29, former Giorgio’s Restaurant sous-chef Nick Dellinger contacted the PRWA after walking-out of work when his employer refused to pay him for all his hours worked and stopped payment on his last paycheck. The next day, the PRWA accompanied Nick as he presented his boss a BOLI Wage Claim, a flier to be posted in the kitchen explaining the law on final paychecks, and a detailed demand letter stating how Giorgio’s was violating ORS 652.120(1) by not maintaining a regular and consistent pay period.

PRWA: So where were you working? What was your position?
Nick Dellinger: I was working at Giorgio’s Restaurant in the Pearl District. I was the sous-chef.

PRWA: How long did you work there?
ND: I had worked there for a year at that point. Overall I had worked for the company over two years in the past three.

PRWA: How long have you been in food service?
ND: I have been in the food service industry for the past eleven years. I started when I was just a kid in my family’s restaurant. My family had several restaurants. The most well known was Porky’s Diner. A staple in the Des Moines area.

PRWA: Did you enjoy working at Giorgio’s?
ND: At one time I did enjoy working at Giorgio’s. The food was good and I was asked to take on a major role. That felt really good. Then they started really taking advantage of me.

PRWA: When did they start taking advantage of you?
ND: Giorgio, the executive chef, started taking advantage of me as soon as he realized I could do the job. That’s it. As soon as he realized I could carry the weight. I was on shift pay and I would end up working four or five twelve-hour days a week. The executive chef would come in and leave, knowing I would just take care of it. I was often working solo during very busy times. It became very mentally and physically draining. To top it off there was very little appreciation, just an expectation to continue to let it happen.

PRWA: Can you explain “shift pay”? Is that a flat rate per shift instead of an hourly wage?
ND: Shift pay is where you are paid a certain amount per shift. If you work a whole shift or half shift you are paid the same. If you work an extra day of the week the you are not paid more, because it doesn’t fall into your normal shifts. If you are sick one day of the week then you don’t get paid because it is taking away from your normal shifts. It is a salary designed for the owner. I signed on to work there knowing that was the case but unable to find food like that anywhere else. It was a phenomenal restaurant but the owner has sucked the quality out of it.

PRWA: Can you explain what happened, in terms of the dispute you had?
ND: The dispute I had was simple. I put in my two weeks notice. I had another offer, one I could not refuse. The chef said I was sabotaging him and then talked down to me for two weeks. When I got my last check, I walked out the door. By the time I went to the bank to deposit it, It had been canceled. My employer said that I took money that I hadn’t earned. I asked why, then, would they pay me the sum that was on my check if I hadn’t earned it. Ultimately he asked me to work my last two days for free. So I walked out.

PRWA: Did you have other problems in your workplace?
ND: I am certainly not the first person that has been affected by this employer. I know several very talented people who have quit, gotten fired or have been forced to move on from this place. It is a very sad and pathetic operation, with very little respect given to either employee or customer. It is all about taking advantage of people.

PRWA: How did you get in touch with the PRWA?
ND: I have a good friend whom is involved with the PRWA. The day I left, I ran into him walking in northwest Portland. I told him what had happened and he put me in touch with Emmett. Emmett and I talked on the phone a few hours that night. I went about filling out the proper paperwork, in case I might have had to file a wage claim.

PRWA: How did y’all go about resolving this? Can you tell the story of going in and confronting your former employer?
ND: The next day Emmett met me at the park and he walked me through the interaction with my previous employer. We then went together to the restaurant and asked for my check. He stood right there with me, informing me of my rights as my ex-employer tried to swindle me out of money. He was very helpful and supportive, and we walked away with a check that I felt satisfied the work I had completed there.

PRWA: What are you up to now?
ND: I live in Las Vegas. I am employed by the MGM Grand, at one of the finest restaurants in the state. I am happy to be a part of a local union and working for people who truly respect me and support what I do for them. It is a refreshing change. I do love Portland. I miss it and I cannot wait to come home. Professionally this is the best decision for me now.

Industry Survey Results

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by pdxrwa

June 3, 2010

The Portland Restaurant Workers’ Association is developing a survey in order to understand the typical working conditions and issues for restaurant workers in the Portland area. We decided to do a test run of a draft survey for the month of April and received 37 responses from people all over the city. From this initial information, we have noticed some common trends in the industry. Below is a summary of what we’ve found so far.

From here, we will be further refining the questions of the survey and launching an outreach campaign to collect input from a larger section of the restaurant industry. We look forward to finding out more from workers in the region and working toward organizing our efforts to build unity and bring about change.

From the 37 responses we found a couple notable things:

The majority of people who filled out the survey (57%) have worked in the restaurant industry for over ten years:

70% have never received a raise at their current job:

86% have never had a promotion:

When working over 6.5 hours, 59% typically don’t get a meal break:

Less than half reported having health insurance (39%), and only 13% get paid sick leave:

People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

78% have worked while sick:


These were some common practices listed in the workplace:

Routinely understaffed 20 54%
Expected to perform several jobs at once 25 68%
Verbal abuse from supervisors 17 46%
Expected to perform a job not trained for 13
35%
Done something due to time constraint that has put your safety or health at risk 14 38%
None of the above 6 16%

People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

The survey also had a section for respondents to tell any stories they’d like to share. We received quite a few narratives regarding inappropriate and illegal workplace practices. Some examples were an establishment where workers were told to buy their own uniforms, as well as a restaurant where cooks have to work in extreme temperatures, doing prep work off the clock, taking tips to pay for labor costs, and also a story where someone was fired because they stood up to being verbally abused.

These trends imply that although the respondents are well-qualified and experienced in their profession, there is not much of a career ladder, pay scale, or respectable working conditions in this industry. It will be important to explore with future input why these conditions exist and what can be done about them.

Please note these trends are derived from a small sample of responses. We are interested to see if they are consistent with future responses throughout the city. Thanks to everyone who filled out a draft survey. Please look for a final version of the survey in June! Fill it out and tell all your friends!

Know Your Kitchen! Workshops: Learn New Skills, Sharpen Your Technique

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , on April 20, 2010 by pdxrwa

by William Pilgrim
4/20/10

The Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA) is proud to present Know Your Kitchen!, a four part series of job skill training workshops at Bargreen & Ellingson’s test kitchen facility. Led by award winning chef Andrew H. Garrett, workshops begin June 7 and will cover everything from product identification to knife skills and butchery.

The PRWA is hosting these workshops to help restaurant workers refine or acquire new kitchen skills. The Know Your Kitchen! series will be presented with the highest degree of professionalism, while still remaining accessible to the widest possible degree of restaurant workers. The workshops will provide workers with skills they need to advance in the restaurant industry, and allow already familiar workers to hone their skills.

Andrew H. Garrett, who will be leading the classes, began his career at 16 as a dishwasher at a pizzeria in California. Since then he’s arrived in Portland, becoming the Sous Chef at 23 Hoyt and ultimately taking the reigns at Cafe Nell. Garrett is excited to contribute to these workshops. He’s gained recognition through the People’s Choice Award as “Portland’s Original Iron Chef,” the Oregonian’s “Restaurant of the Month” and he continues to receive accolades in the local press for his work.

The Know Your Kitchen! workshops will cover everything from the basics to more advanced skills, catering to both novice and experienced workers. The workshops are provided free of charge, but the participants will be asked to become PRWA Solidarity Members. Space is limited, so registration is required.

For complete details and to register, visit Know Your Kitchen!

Know Your Kitchen! Workshop Schedule:
Classes will be held each Monday in June from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.
6/7/10 : Product Identification & Sanitation and Safety
6/14/10 : Knife Skills
6/21/10 : Stocks and Sauces
6/28/10 : Butchery

Workshop Location:
Bargreen & Ellingson: Foodservice Supply & Design
3232 NW Industrial St.
Portland, OR 97210

Judges Serve Owners a Slice of Tip Control

Posted in News Archive, Tip Pooling & "Tip Out" on March 22, 2010 by pdxrwa

March 23, 2010
by William Pilgrim

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a ruling on February 26 that could be a blow to tipped employees.  In the case of Cumbie v. Woody Woo, Inc. the court ruled that tip-pooling is legal in Oregon as long as an employee is paid more than the federally prescribed minimum wage and the tips are not used as credit towards paying that wage.

Under federal regulations tip pools can only include “customarily tipped employees” generally excluding kitchen staff, like dishwashers or cooks, who do not normally receive gratuities from patrons.

Misty Cumbie was a waitress at the Portland restaurant the Vita Cafe. Woo forced his wait staff to pool their tips, 55-70% of which went to back-of-house staff like cooks and dishwashers.  The rest was redistributed to the wait staff based on their proportion of hours worked.  Cumbie, represented by labor attorney Jon Egan, argued that this tip-pooling arrangement was “invalid” because the bulk of a server’s tips went to non-tipped employees. The Secretary of Labor agrees.

The Secretary filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Cumbie.  In the brief, the Secretary reaffirmed earlier precedent that “tips, as sums presented to tipped employees by a customer ‘as a gift or gratuity in recognition of some service performed’…are the property of the employee.”

At issue is the concept of a “tip credit.”  Federally, and in 43 states, employers are allowed to apply a percentage of an employee’s tips towards the employer’s minimum wage obligation.  An employee’s cash wage, plus the tips they earn, must meet or exceed the federally prescribed minimum.

Oregon does not allow employers to take a tip credit so Woo argued, successfully in this case, that federal tip pool rules do not apply.

The Secretary stated that, “if the tipped employees did not receive the full federal minimum wage plus all tips received, they cannot be deemed under federal law to have received the minimum wage `free and clear,’ and the money diverted into the invalid tip pool is an improper deduction from wages that violates section [20]6 of the [Fair Labor Standards] Act.” At the hearing, Maria Van Buren, United States Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., argued on behalf of the Secretary of Labor in support of Cumbie.

The court’s opinion, written by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, rejected Cumbie and the Secretary’s argument outright, calling their “interpretation of the regulation as plainly erroneous and unworthy of any deference.” Woo was supported by amicus curiae brief from law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Portland, Oregon, on behalf of the Oregon Restaurant Association, as well as an additional brief from the Nevada Restaurant Association.

O’Scannlain further noted that, “The FLSA does not restrict tip pooling when no tip credit is taken. Therefore, only the tips redistributed to Cumbie from the pool ever belonged to her,” contrary to the Secretary’s interpretation. The Court concluded that, ” the FLSA does not prohibit Woo’s tip-pooling arrangement does not thwart this purpose…Naturally, [Cumbie] would prefer to receive all of her tips, but the FLSA does not create such an entitlement where no tip credit is taken.”

The ruling was a “first impression” for the court, and sets a precedent that could potentially be applied in other states that don’t have a tip credit.  As long as there is a consistently applied, preexisting arrangement between an employer and employee tip pools are valid.  As a condition of being hired, an employer can require an employee to participate in a tip pool, either through a written agreement or as an expressed and consistently applied rule.

An employer cannot take the tips for himself, but can force employees to redistribute those tips and subsidize the wage of non-tipped employees or even managers.  The Oregon Restaurant Association (ORA) is advising employers not to extend tip pools to management staff but notes the ruling “did not expressly prohibit the practice.”

The Oregonian reports that, ORA spokesman Bill Berry said he doubted the ruling would have much impact on Oregon restaurants. But we beg to differ.

As of now, your tips are not your tips until they are redistributed to you.  Cumbie stresses that the issue is not whether tipped workers share their tips with other hard-working coworkers.  The issue is that workers, and not owners, should be in control of the tips they receive.

Attorney Jon Egan is still pushing to have the case heard by a wider court.  He says: “We are disappointed in the three-Judge Panel’s decision. In ruling that employers are free to confiscate and redistribute employees’ tips to back-of-the-house workers, the Panel went against over 35 years of consistent published Department of Labor tip pooling opinions that interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act (the federal law regulating minimum wages and overtime, originally passed by Congress in 1938 and amended many times since then).”

Cumbie’s last hope is to have the case judged en banc. Cumbie and Egan are currently petitioning, and “if a majority of judges vote to take the case up en banc, then a larger panel of 11 judges will be assigned to consider the case from scratch.”

The case may be in limbo, but the ORA notes, “The US Department of Labor does not have to apply the ruling of a District Court, but does have to apply the ruling of a Circuit Court.”  We’ll have to wait to see the true impact.

Workers Stand Up Against Wage Theft in Portland

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by pdxrwa

by William Pilgrim

Friday December 11th, 2009- NEWLY OPENED RESTAURANT TOAST AND PHO DENIES FORMER WORKERS PAST WAGES.

Restaurant owners Tan Vo and Titi Nguyen of the newly opened Toast and Pho, 101 NW 21st Ave, have been accused of denying an estimated $8,000 in back wages to former employees Teresa Nguyen (no relation), Pedro Rendon, and former General Manager Frank Clow.  Toast and Pho opened November 1st, 2009.

Tan Vo and Titi Nguyen were informed that the workers would be coming today, Friday December 11th, to collect their back wages.  The workers were joined by more than 15 activists who confronted the owners at 11:30 am.  Members of the Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA) Workers Support Committee  and  activists from the worker’s rights community were present for support and solidarity.

The Owners of Toast and Pho were informed in advance that the workers would be attempting to collect their wages Friday, and the workers arrived with formal letters outlining their requests, and Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) Wage Claim forms. Because the ownership failed to keep formal or accurate records of the hours employees worked before the restaurant’s opening, and during its operation, the wages owed are based on employee estimates. Teresa Nguyen is owed over $93.40 in wages and withheld tips, Rendon is owed over $1,000 in wages and overtime for hours worked before the restaurant opened, and Clow is owed $7,000 in salary.

The former employees and the PRWA were asked to leave almost immediately after arriving at Toast and Pho.  The ownership became flustered and hostile, and the police were called.   The PRWA remained in the restaurant until former employee David Sokolowski,acting as a liaison to the police, was informed that only Teresa Nguyen, Rendon, and Clow would be allowed to stay.

The workers were denied their unpaid wages.  As a result, BOLI Wage Claim forms were filed Friday afternoon, and the workers may seek legal recourse.

Toast and Pho have a history of questionable hiring/firing practices, as well as failing to pay their workers.  On November 8th, David Sokolowski and the PRWA participated in another solidarity action in which Sokolowski successfully obtained a week-and-a-half’s worth of back wages.

The PRWA is preparing to return to Toast and Pho for demonstrations on Saturday, December 12th, and will conduct a phone blast from the community to keep the pressure on.

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