Archive for Dishing it Out

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

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

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.

Collective Action Wins Worker’s Back Wages from Toast & Pho

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , on November 19, 2009 by pdxrwa


by William Pilgrim

David Sokolowski was excited by the promise of starting a full time waiting position at the recently opened Vietnamese/American restaurant Toast & Pho. Toast & Pho, located at 103 NW 21st Ave., opened Sunday, November 1. By Monday Sokolowski was fired, and left unpaid for nearly two weeks of work.  On Sunday, November 8, Sokolowski confronted his former employer, and with help from workers involved with the Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA), Sokolowski received his due.

November 18, 2009

Sokolowski –a six year industry veteran with both quick serve and fine dining experience– left a full-time supervisory position at Pita Pit to help prepare Toast & Pho for its opening.  From the beginning, it was, “pure chaos.” Sokolowski said, “there were a couple times, before the restaurant opened, that I was notified of a training [by suppliers, not restaurant management], meeting or cleaning after the shift had already begun.”

Though the wait staff participated in meetings before the restaurant opened, there was no training provided or expectations established regarding wait staff responsibilities.  Sokolowski says that, “none of the management team had any previous restaurant experience but believed their authority should not be questioned.”  Management removed three of the original five wait staff from the schedule after the first day, without telling the workers they were fired.

A manager told the two remaining members, including Sokolowski, that teams of new trainees would be brought in to compete with them, and if they weren’t the fastest they too would be fired. After working the breakfast shift on November 2, Toast & Pho terminated Sokolowski’s employment but failed to pay his final wages and tips totaling $306.40.

Sokolowski, “felt betrayed.  They were taking advantage of all wait staff workers, and treating them very badly.” The inexperienced managers were demanding and unreasonable, expecting wait staff to take on responsibilities they had never been explained or communicated.  When employees did not meet these expectations, management was abusive, berating employees and threatening their jobs.  Sokolowski recalls that during a busy period, “the owner proceeded to yell at me across the dining area from the kitchen,” for not picking up and delivering food quickly enough.

While at Toast & Pho, Sokolowski witnessed other abuses and violations.  Management did not record hours worked before or after the restaurant was opened, employees did not fill out W-4’s to report their wages.  Wait staff was not given or offered the required 10 and 30 minute breaks during the two days Sokolowski worked. And because only management had access to the computers or money, the wait staff had no way of tracking their tips, or knowing what they’d earned.

Unemployed and uncertain if he would ever be paid, Sokolowski turned to the Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA) for support.  The PRWA’s Workers Support Committee met with Sokolowski on Friday, November 6 to coordinate a plan of action to secure a timely payment of his wages.  With their advice, Sokolowski contacted Toast & Pho by phone and email on Saturday to notify management he would be coming in the next day to pick up his wages.  In his phone exchange, his former manager assured Sokolowski his check was waiting for him.

But, because Toast & Pho had proven itself less than genuine already, Sokolowski and the PRWA prepared for collective and legal action. The PRWA alerted its Solidarity Action Network, designed to provide direct and visible support to workers confronting their employers, that Sokolowski would need their support in case he did not receive his wages on Sunday.  By failing to pay Sokolowski his final wages and tips by the end of the first business day after his discharge, Toast & Pho was in violation of Oregon state law ORS 652.140 and subject to Bureau of Labor & Industry (BOLI) wage claim investigation or civil lawsuit.

When Sokolowski and three PRWA Solidarity Action Network members arrived at Toast & Pho on Sunday, November 8 they were told by his former manager that no paychecks were available and offered Sokolowski a beverage for the “inconvenience.”  Sokolowski was forced to produce a completed W-4 and a BOLI wage claim form before the owner was willing to compensate him.  The owner  immediately said, “write him a check for whatever he wants.”

Sokolowski states:

“They had no idea how much anyone had earned in tips, so they accepted my requested amount without hesitation. They did not account for any of my training, cleaning or waiting hours, so they accepted my requested amount. They attempted to take 30 minutes off of each shift even though no wait staff employee was allowed any 10 or 30 minute breaks for any of shifts, so they retracted that under my demand.”

Toast & Pho were only willing to pay when threatened with legal action, and originally stated that “miscommunication” led Sokolowski to believe that his paycheck would be ready Sunday.  While this was clearly victory for Sokolowski, he still fears that the other three employees, who were fired without notice, have not yet received their pay.  Without access to their contact information, or even the last names of his former coworkers, he has been unable pursue that matter further.

In interviews, Sokolowski was grateful for the prompt support and collective action. Inexperience cannot be an excuse for this kind of behavior in an employer.  With these kinds of systemic abuses built into the management of Toast & Pho, it’s likely that they will continue.  But direct action, with support from other workers, may help, and the PRWA is proud to have assisted.

Congress Poised to Pass Health Care Reform, But Is It Enough?

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by pdxrwa

October 21, 2009
by William Pilgrim

Health care reform, and universal coverage, are one step closer after the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 October 13 to pass the America’s Healthy Future Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), will now work to blend the bill with the Affordable Health Choices Act passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee on July 15, 2009.  Debate before the full Senate could begin by the end of this month, and work can begin on the delicate task of combining the Senate proposal with the competing House Tri-Committee’s America’s Affordable Choices Act.

By most measures, the Senate Finance Committee’s version appears to be the leading bill.  At $892 billion over ten years it is the least costly measure, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it could shave $81 billion off the federal deficit by 2019.  Unfortunately, it is also the least aggressive and most conservative approach, and the only bill that doesn’t contain a public insurance option. After months of wrangling, and making concessions to appease conservative lawmakers, will the final bill be strong enough to protect workers?

Health care costs are expected to reach $2.5 trillion in 2009, 17.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), with spending is expected to double by 2018.  The United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Japan all spend less than 10% of their GDP on health care, with significantly better health outcomes.  America is the only industrialized nation without universal coverage.  These bills would go a long in way providing coverage to the 45 million uninsured Americans, a number that’s growing as the recession drags on.  When these bills begin being phased in, starting in 2014, it’s estimated that 95% of Americans could be insured.

The acts represent the most comprehensive and far-reaching efforts to expand health care in decades.  They aim to achieve most of the benchmarks President Obama set for reforming health care including: lowering costs while improving quality of care; providing more accessible and affordable care; and eliminating discrimination in offering plans. The Senate Finance Committee’s bill does the least towards accomplishing these goals.

All three competing bills would require some employer contribution. The House bill, America’s Affordable Choices Act, contains the strongest mandates.  The bill would “require employers to offer coverage to their employees and contribute at least 72.5% of the premium cost for single coverage and 65% of the premium cost for family coverage of the lowest cost plan that meets the essential benefits package requirements.”  Employers choosing not to provide coverage would be forced to pay 8% of payroll into a Health Insurance Exchange.

The House bill, and both Senate bills, contain articles that would establish health insurance exchanges through varying mechanisms. Through these exchanges, all state licensed insurers would be forced to participate, making information on premiums and benefits from a variety of plans available to individuals and small businesses shopping for quality insurance. Under the House bill, hardship exemptions are allowed for employers that would be negatively affected by job losses, and the smallest employers, those with payrolls under $500,000, would also be exempt. To encourage employee coverage, though, tax credits would be offered to employers contributing at least 50% to their employees health plans.  In contrast, the Senate Finance Committee’s bill leaves many workers unprotected.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) crafted the America’s Healthy Future Act in an effort to win bipartisan support from Republicans and conservative Democrats.  Of the proposals, this bill contains the weakest protections for workers and only one Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted for the measure.

Although all Americans would be required to carry insurance, employers with fewer than 50 employees would not be required to offer insurance or be penalized if they don’t. Employers with more than 50 employees would only be penalized if their employees use federal tax credits and subsidies to purchase their own coverage.

Employers with more than 200 employees that do offer health insurance would force any uncovered employees to be automatically enrolled in whatever plan the company provides.  This denies employees the right to choose their own health care and strong-arms them into accepting whatever the company currently offers.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat and long-time supporter of health care reform, was blocked by his own party from amending the bill.  His amendments would have made employers offer the choice of a minimum of three insurance options.  Forcing insurers to compete among employees could have lowered premium costs.

A public insurance option could also force down insurance premiums.  Private, for-profit insurances companies would be forced to lower their premiums and administrative costs in order to compete with a low cost public alternative.  Conservative commentators decry a public option as “socialism”, but enrollment would not be mandatory and no one would be forced onto the plan.  After initial federal support to start a public non-profit insurance entity, the program would be solely funded by the premiums it collects. The America’s Healthy Future Act is the only bill without a public option.

Requiring all Americans to be insured is likely to be a boon to the insurance industry.  All three bills strip the insurance companies of the right to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions and charge higher premiums to women or older insurees.  The insurance industry has fought these profit-encroaching measures for years.  While these measures guarantee more equitable access, the industry stands to gain millions of new clients, and dollars, as rules are phased in requiring the uninsured to find coverage.

There are positive trends in these bills.  Medicaid, which provides federal insurance to the poorest Americans, would be dramatically expanded to include those below 133% to 150% of federal poverty level (FPL).  Those between those levels and 400% of FPL would be provided credits or subsidies on a sliding scale to purchase coverage.

There would also be caps on out-of-pocket expenses and the top 1-3% of the most expensive plans would be taxed to pay for the expansion of coverage.  The bills also support using information technology to reduce administrative cost and better coordinate patient care, as well as shifting focus from the current pay-for-service model to a preventative/wellness based system.

Congress’ most radical proposal, the United States National Health Care Act, was brought to the floor of the House January 26th, 2009, and has received virtually no attention since.  H.R. 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) would establish a single payer universal health care coverage through the United States National Health Care (USNHC) Program.  This program would provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. Territories with free health care.  This would include primary and preventative care, long-term care, emergency care, mental health, as well as dental and vision care.

By raising taxes on the top 5% of wealthiest Americans, adding progressive taxes on payroll and stock and bond transactions, and diverting all federal health care spending to the USNHC program every U.S. resident could be covered.  In the past President Obama has advocated for a single payer system similar to Canada’s.  However, the President now views transitioning to such a system as too disruptive since our health care system has been historically run privately.

But current public options, like Medicare for seniors, are run more cheaply than their private counterparts.  In the case of Medicare Advantage, the privatized portion of Medicare, the cost to the government is 14% more per beneficiary.  H.R. 676 would allow coverage through a variety of insurance providers, but would require all companies providing insurance be run as non-profit.  Removing the profit motive from insurance ensures that what is paid as premiums is used for the health of the beneficiaries, not to pad the pockets of insurance executives.

America can no longer afford to pay more and receive less, while leaving 45 million Americans vulnerable.  The America’s Healthy Future Act may finally bring America closer to the health care reform, but in an effort to receive the stamp of bipartisanship, many progressive ideas have been left  out.  Workers are penalized for not carrying insurance, but there are no strong employer mandates to improve coverage.  And there is no public option to force private insurers, who’ve enjoyed massive profits for years, into real competition.  The America’s Healthy Future Act is certainly an improvement over the current system, which operates with exorbitant rates and little else to show for it.  But it doesn’t go far enough in guaranteeing workers quality, affordable coverage.

Restaurant Uses Pay-to-Apply Scheme to Weed Out the “Riff-Raff”

Posted in News Archive with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2009 by pdxrwa

August 24, 2009
by William Pilgrim

Urban Restaurants, Inc., which operates Urban Fondue, Bartini, and Pearl Catering in Northwest Portland, recently attempted to charge a $4.50 fee to applicants responding to their Craigslist.com post announcing jobs at upcoming ventures in Sherwood, Portland, and Vancouver, WA. The posting’s full text can be read here at ShamelessRestaurants.com.

Due to pressure from workers and complaints to Craigslist, the original post was pulled down in a matter of hours.

In response to the ad on PortlandFoodandDrink.com, several sympathetic restaurateurs voiced concerns  about the labor-intensive process of sifting through resumes.  One Craigslist posting, for a single position, could yield a hundred resumes, which a potential employer then has to review. A posting as broad as Urban Restaurants’ — “hiring for ALL restaurant, plus catering positions” — could produce hundreds of responses.

The ad, which has been verified as originating from Urban Restaurants, Inc.’s executive chef Kevin Kennedy, states “we had to hire an HR Assistant to process all resumes, therefore, you are kindly requested to send a processing fee of $4.50, through PayPal) [sic] along with your resume.”

However, it’s doubtful that human resources costs are the sole reason Kennedy tried to force workers to pay to apply. Though Kennedy did not respond to the PRWA’s request for comment, in an email sent to a local restaurant manager (and subsequently obtained by the PRWA), Kennedy wrote, “our company has found on the East Coast that it elliminates [sic] the the Riff Raff! These days HR is important and expensive. Good Business!”

Any seasoned industry veteran would be instantly turned off by what Kennedy calls “good business.” The $4.50 fee may seem small, but the cost of conducting business should fall to the employer, not the potential employee. Plus, it’s also an indication of the type of work environment a worker can expect if she or he is lucky enough to be offered a position. What else would an employer like this charge workers for? Will they be expected to use their tips to cover laundry costs or shortages in the register? Will they be expected to work off the clock or otherwise subsidize the costs of doing business?

One of the first job seekers to report the ad to Craigslist on August 8, 2009, who wishes to remain anonymous, was a service-industry veteran offended by what she calls the “scaminess” of charging a worker to apply.   The story was picked up by Portland Food and Drink shortly after.

As a former hiring manager herself, she says that “even if you receive 100 resumes…a quick peak [sic] at the most recent employers will fully take care of that.” If only 100 applicants responded — and an ad as broad as this could easily receive many times that — Urban Restaurants, Inc. would have made $450 to do what many managers do regularly in the course of business. It’s unreasonable to charge an applicant $4.50 to only have their application glanced at, especially if there’s no guarantee of a follow-up interview or phone call.

Unfortunately, there are few protections for potential employees in cases like this. Lake Oswego labor lawyer Jon Egan notes that there are legal protections in Rhode Island against an employer charging application fees, but says, “I haven’t found any other state or federal statutes specifically addressing this issue. There is certainly no Oregon law on this issue.”

Whether or not it’s legal, it is unethical to charge potential employees to pay to apply. Paying Urban Restaurants, Inc. $4.50 only ensures that an assistant will look at a resume. There is no guarantee that the assistant would extensively review a worker’s qualifications or give them the consideration you’d expect from paying to apply. Plus, the implications of this tactic — that workers are “Riff Raff” if they feel uncomfortable paying to apply for a job — are unconscionable, especially given that Oregon’s unemployment rate is hovering around 12 percent.

Given this ad’s quick demise, we hope that other employers take note.

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