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Last week the restaurant-worker advocacy group, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Seattle, released the results of restaurant staff surveys from across King County. One of many ROCs across the country, the Seattle group discovered that, even in this progressive region:  

  • Only 37 percent of restaurant workers were aware of Seattle’s law mandating paid sick leave.
  • Over 87 percent of Seattle restaurant workers don’t receive employer-provided health coverage.
  • Most people of color employed in restaurants work in the back of the house (56.7 percent of Asian workers, 59.8 percent of black workers, 77.4 percent of Latino workers).
  • Most women employed in restaurants work in less lucrative restaurants (making up 57 percent of casual full-service restaurant jobs, and only 22 percent of fine-dining jobs).
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Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who spoke about the ROC-Seattle findings last week at the Comet Tavern.

“Seattle has made tremendous strides toward improving working conditions for low-wage workers by enacting laws that require employers to offer paid leave, setting limits on the use of conviction and arrest records in hiring, and raising the minimum wage towards a living wage,” comments the ROC-Seattle. “However, there is clearly far more work to be done.”

This is particularly true given the significance of the food/bev industry in this region. According to ROC-Seattle, the Seattle restaurant industry includes more than 86,000 workers in over 5,400 establishments. In the last ten years the industry has grown to over 8 percent of the local economy, with the number of food and drink service establishments increasing 27 percent.

That adds up to a lot of dough for Seattle's economy. In 2012 alone, Seattle restaurants generated 4.7 billion in revenue, netting for Seattle some 140 million in sales tax.


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