Seattle Restaurant Workers Report ‘Serious Problems’ Despite $15 Wage Law

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Minimum wage, Restaurant | Comments Off on Seattle Restaurant Workers Report ‘Serious Problems’ Despite $15 Wage Law

Fasy food workers low wages

A new survey among restaurant workers in Seattle has revealed that despite the passing of a $15 minimum wage law, they are still working in very poor conditions. The survey was done by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC); they represent restaurant workers in the city of Seattle. In their poll of more than 524 employees, they found that many of them are still receiving below minimum wage and restaurant owners are practicing illegal labor practices. The $15 minimum wage law will come into effect in 2021. In the meantime, all employers in Seattle are supposed to pay a minimum of $11 an hour.

Poverty wages

The survey found that a significant number of restaurant employees – almost 43% – were receiving poverty wages which is lower than what is set by the group – $12.25. According to an official at the ROC, restaurant jobs have few or no benefits, poor pay and this is made worse by the conditions that employees are forced to work under. According to the ROC, poor working conditions often means that there are discriminatory hiring and reward practices, discrimination in the workplace and there is no job-specific training.

waiterEmployers are also stealing employee wages at an alarming rate. One fifth of those surveyed reported that they had worked without pay in the previous year and many of those who worked overtime were not compensated at one and a half the normal rate as required by law. The ROC says that although the city has taken a great step by passing the $15 minimum wage law, it has taken no steps to ensure that the current law is enforced. There should be more effort directed towards ensuring that restaurant employees are aware of their rights and they know where to go when these rights are violated. In addition to that, restaurateurs who steal wages should be penalized or prosecuted to deter further thefts.

It is not just restaurant employees who are suffering. Activists have for a long time been asking for stronger labor law enforcement and in 2014 they teamed up with the National Employment Law Project and created a report that recommended that city agencies reach out to communities and help them understand their labor rights and also monitor neighborhood businesses to ensure that labor laws were being followed. Other cities have succeeded in doing this. In San Francesco, for instance, where they passed a $15 minimum wage law not too long ago, there is much better enforcement of labor laws by the relevant authorities.

The Seattle city government hopes that it can adopt the same model used in San Francisco and currently, they have set aside $1 million to help with outreach and enforcement of labor laws.

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