Before I became a journalist, I worked for years in food service. None of the jobs I had paid particularly well. At one coffee shop in a gentrified San Diego neighborhood, I realized I had a better chance of being struck by lightning then getting a raise or benefits so I got fed up and took my complaints to the owners, but they fell on deaf ears. I quit soon after in search of more lucrative work.
I was lucky. Many of the six million people working in the lowest-paying sector of the American economy—the restaurant industry—aren’t in a position to search for something better. In her new book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, Saru Jayaraman, cofounder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, shares no shortage of case studies about people trying to survive on meager wages in food service jobs with little or no mobility. Read more