Restaurant workers are vital to Portland’s local economy. Oregon’s 9,000 restaurants posted sales of $4.7 billion in 2005. Most of these restaurants -the majority in Portland– are small, single-owner establishments with fewer than 20 workers. Restaurants in Oregon employ more than 120,000 workers, 1 in 14 payroll workers in the state. (source: Oregon Restaurant Association)
Though food service workers are a dominant force in the economy, we are low paid, unlikely to receive benefits and mostly part-time due to the nature of the work. In addition, our rights are continually falling through labor and employment law loopholes. As a workforce, we are largely unprotected and rarely have the resources to hold our employers accountable.
If you are experiencing difficulty on the job, it is a good idea to document in writing every situation that you think may violate your legal rights. Be diligent. Write down dates, times and witnesses so you can protect yourself from illegal firing or retaliation and prove your case if the need should arise. Before you go to the Department of Labor, or hire an attorney, or attempt to go it alone, we encourage you to contact the Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA), where volunteers can discuss your options with you.