The following was written by members of the DSA-LA Food Service Labor Circle, a collective of socialist restaurant and food service industry workers organizing to transform the food service industry in Los Angeles. If you work in a restaurant or in the food service industry and are interested in being involved, email the Labor Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
As food service workers, we are a critical part of both the national economy and our local communities. Yet food service workers are often expected to experience regular low job security, meager wages, and regular workplace abuse. Now is the time for us to use our collective voice to protect our health and safety, and build a better work environment for every food service worker in Los Angeles.
Our industry is in trouble. If the next Stimulus Bill fails to extend the $600 dollar federal unemployment benefit, it will have a devastating effect on the economy. In addition to stripping those already hurting of their only lifeline, millions of jobs will be lost as restaurants and food sellers lose billions of dollars in economic support they receive from currently unemployed workers. This will immiserate working communities on a scale that will take decades to repair, if at all.
This cannot stand. Congress must support the workers they deem essential to keeping the economy alive. We will not accept the lies that politicians tell to demonize and demean the working class, and demand that Congress protect us from further economic ruin.
We must extend the $600 federal unemployment benefit now!
Our industry is in need of transformation, and we can not rely on Congress to bring that change. Here in Los Angeles, we must come together as food service workers and demand an end to irresponsible business practices that leave us all vulnerable to falling ill with COVID-19.
We can no longer tolerate bosses, whether they be Chefs or Managers, who force us to accept unsanitary, unsafe, and illegal working conditions while benefiting from the fruits of our labor.
We must stand in solidarity with street vendors and undocumented workers left out of the city’s reopening guidelines or deprived of economic assistance despite their contributions to our communities and the economy.
We must hold the media accountable for coverage of the industry that puts restaurant owners on a pedestal and erases the voices of the workers who keep the Los Angeles food industry alive.
The uncertainty surrounding our industry’s future means we are all more vulnerable than ever. We must come together in support of each other and create a space for food service workers to call out mistreatment, discrimination, and harassment.
Our fellow workers of Augie’s Coffee, who bravely are fighting for their right to an equitable and safe workplace, are a leading example of what needs to be done. In coming together as workers, the Augie’s Union has been able stand together even in the face of mass layoffs and are taking the fight back to the boss, filing for $140,000 in wage theft claims with the NLRB. Bosses will only respect the dignity of their workers if they fear collective retaliation for their offenses. In that light the organizing Augie’s Union has done is not only something as food service workers we should applaud – we should also be taking notes.
On August 7th we will hold our first forum to discuss the challenges we face in the time of COVID— what we can do to ensure our rights are protected and our work is respected. We strive to create a safe and equitable space where food service workers can learn more about their rights, connect with one another, and build power. Our voice as workers is at its strongest when we come together.
Here are three actions we can take right now to come together as food service workers:
1. Sign the national Restaurant Workers United Petition calling for an extension to federal unemployment benefits, organized by DSA.
2. Join us at our Food Service Forum on August 7th to learn how we can organize to transform the LA Food Service industry.
Extend the 600! Unite the industry! When we organize and fight, we win!