173592 Workplace Justice through Innovation: The New York City Restaurant Worker Health & Safety Project

Monday, October 27, 2008: 2:30 PM

Saru Jayaraman, MPPJD , Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), New York, NY
Steven Markowitz, MD , Center for the Biolgy of Natural Systems- Queens College, Flushing, NY
As the nation's largest private employer and a fastest-growing industry, the restaurant industry has gained importance for examination and intervention for those interested in the health and safety of low-wage immigrant workers. Restaurant workers are among the most frequent users of emergency departments for work-related trauma in New York City.

Founded after September 11th, 2001 to support displaced World Trade Center restaurant workers, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) has organized restaurant workers citywide for improved working conditions, won back-pay and anti-discrimination campaigns; trained restaurant workers to find good jobs and advance within the industry; won a statewide minimum wage increase for tipped workers; and organized restaurant workers to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurant, COLORS.

With funding by NIEHS and NIOSH, the New York City Restaurant Worker Health & Safety Project has conducted a large health and safety survey and focus groups of restaurant workers and interviewed 40 employers to examine the occupational safety and health in this sector. We developed a peer education program for workers and a city-funded restaurant owner education program. Most excitingly, we employed an ergonomist to assess ergonomic conditions in restaurants, design COLORS as an ergonomic laboratory, and to develop ergonomic guidelines for restaurant owners.

In 2007, we created ROC United, a national restaurant workers' organization, to initiate ROC branches in New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, and Miami and to conduct national research and policy work. We will thus replicate our health and safety work for restaurant workers throughout the country.

Learning Objectives:
1. To describe a successful and innovative restaurant worker health and safety project in New York City. 2. To articulate concrete interventions in the nation's largest private sector industry to address illness and injury among workers. 3. To develop step-by-step methodology to replicate such interventions in cities across the country.

Keywords: Labor, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Principal Investigator of the NYC Restaruant Worker Health and Safety Projected funded by NIOSH. As I am the co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of NY, I have coordinated multiple nationally recognized studies of Restaurant worker health and safety. I am also a professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.