Al-Jazeera America: Seattle restaurant workers report 'serious problems' despite $15 wage law

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

Michael Fleshman/Flickr

From Al-Jazeera America:

by Ned Resnikoff

Seattle labor activists scored a major win last year when the city became the second in the country to pass a $15 minimum wage law. But working conditions for many local service workers remain poor, in part due to lax enforcement, according to a new survey by a group representing Seattle restaurant employees.

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) Seattle — part of ROC United, a national labor group that campaigns on minimum wage issues — found in its survey of 524 Seattle-area restaurant employees that low wages and illegal labor practices persist in the industry, despite the minimum wage law and other legislation meant to improve conditions for low-wage workers.

The survey found that 42.7 percent of respondents earned “poverty wages,” or wages below a threshold the group set at $12.25 per hour. Seattle’s $11 an hour minimum wage will gradually increase to $15 for all employers by 2021.

“Many restaurant jobs in the Seattle area are low-road jobs characterized by few benefits, low wages, and poor workplace conditions,” ROC Seattle said in a statement issued Tuesday. "Our report also unearths a range of serious problems related to the availability of benefits, hiring and promotion practices, workplace discrimination, and job-specific training opportunities."

Wage theft was also widespread, the survey report said. More than one-fifth of respondents said they had worked off the clock without pay in the past year. And 38.8 percent of those who had worked more than 40 hours per week at some point during the year said they had not received the time-and-a-half overtime compensation required by federal law.

Read the full article from Al-Jazeera America.