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New York’s first Restaurant Industry Summit convened on January 25 to galvanize the city’s gastronomes for improved pay and working conditions in eating establishments. The meeting, which brought together workers’ advocates, restaurant owners, policy makers and city government officials, marked the publication of “Behind The Kitchen Door,” a new report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center on inequality in the city’s restaurant industry. The report describes a robust and growing sector of the city’s economy that relies heavily on the exploitation of immigrant labor. According to the report, in 2000, 64.4 percent of the city’s restaurant workers were born outside of the United States. Their median wage in 2003 was $9.11 per hour, and 44 percent of workers fell below the poverty line. Of the workers interviewed for the report, 59 percent said they were not compensated for extra hours, and 73 percent said they had neither health insurance nor vacations. “It’s ironic that in a city where the restaurants are so abundant and world renowned, that the workers have to suffer like this,” said Behzad Pasdar, one of the co-owners of Colors, a restaurant, cooperatively owned by ROC members, that is due to open in the fall. [1/31/05]

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