Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman; 2013; $21.95; 191 pages; ILR Press, Ithaca, New York, NY; 978-0-8014-5172; 331.76164 J425b; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 8/28-8/30
Why did I pick this up? Saru Jayaraman is scheduled to be at Wordstock this October. Also Danny Glover says right on the front of the book, “A Must Read for anyone who eats at restaurants.”, that would be me.
What is the story? Through the use of many anecdotes and some studies, most of which seemed to have been done on the eastern seaboard, the author points out the inequality between the wages many restaurant workers are paid and the profits the restaurants are making. She also points out the gender and racial inequality in many restaurants. Many restaurant workers are abused financially by unscrupulous management, through wage theft, inequitable scheduling and a lack of opportunity. Did you know there are only 7 states where there is no difference in the minimum wage for tipped and untipped workers, Oregon is one of them. It made me think about the restaurants that I frequent and the obvious racial divide in many of them.
Did I like it? It was ok, however I didn’t feel that the examples given came a wide enough background, it was mainly New York, DC, Miami and Chicago, with just a passing mention of Los Angeles. There was nothing from the interior of the US or the Northwest, except the repeated mentions of Oregon and Washington being among the 7 states where the minimum wage is the same for everyone. It was an interesting premise but I didn’t feel the angst I should have.
Grade-B, good point, less than stellar presentation.
What is with the title of the review?
I have worked in the kitchen in four different restaurants, three of them were family owned and very small, so it was small group of people who did a little of everything. The other one was a well known local restaurant whose entire workcrew was white when I worked there.