WASHINGTON – Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su joined the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United in New York City on Oct. 11, 2023, for a roundtable highlighting issues faced by restaurant workers. The roundtable centered on the ways the organization employs grants from the Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Susan Harwood Training Grant and the Women’s Bureau’s Fostering Access, Rights and Equity Grant to support workers in this industry. In 2023, ROC was awarded a $160,000 Susan Harwood Targeted Topic Training Grant award that will fund two and a half hours of heat safety training to 600 workers in the restaurant industry, with a specific focus on youth, hard-to-reach workers, and workers with limited English proficiency. ROC United is an OSHA “Beat the Heat” award winner. The Fostering Access, Rights and Equity Grants help women workers who are paid low wages learn about and access their employment rights and benefits. ROC United organizers regularly lead sexual harassment trainings in restaurants in Los Angeles and the District of Columbia. The FARE grant awarded to ROC United helps it amplify and replicate its effective train-the-trainer model and impact thousands of workers. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have joined the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United in New York City for a substantive discussion with workers and high road employers on what matters most to them – issues like heat exposure, affordable childcare, workforce training that leads to good jobs and careers, and ensuring discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Jule Su. “ROC United is an extraordinary organization, and the department is proud to help advance their efforts to ensure workers are safe and respected in the workplace.” “My training has given me the skills that I need to advance into higher-paying job positions in the restaurant industry, as well as the knowledge about my rights as a worker,” said Subashini Chandrasekera, a server for a catering business in New York City. “When I got my food handling certificate, it increased my hourly wages and opened more opportunities for me. About 60 percent of restaurant workers who completed ROC United’s professional development program have obtained hourly wage increases of $2 or $3 per hour. We need this kind of free professional training for the front- and back-of-the-house workers, which I hope the Department of Labor will support in the near future.””Most restaurant workers lack job protections, if any. It feels like a family, which I like the most, but it is almost impossible to sustain a family if you can be fired anytime for speaking up, the wages don’t necessarily go up unless mandated by law, discrimination and harassment – at least in the restaurants that I worked for – are rampant, and no medical and vacation benefits. There are employers who know and understand what we are going through and adhere to fair labor standards. That’s why I believe these changes can be done; policies can be regulated,” said Joseph Bunn, a restaurant worker in Chicago and New York City.Learn more about the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
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