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On UUSC’s blog, a range of contributors — from staff members to participants on experiential learning trips — share their thoughts and reflections on UUSC’s work and related topics. The views expressed by individual contributors here do not necessarily reflect the views of UUSC.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Wed, 03/13/2013 - 7:21am.
The Independent Elections and Boundary Commission of Kenya (IEBC) announced on Saturday March 9, the results of the March 4th elections. Uhuru Kenyatta recieved just over 50 percent of the votes cast narrowly avoiding a run-off election with opposition candidate, Raila Odinga who received 43 percent of the vote Various sources report that the margin over 50 percent that Kenyatta won is very slim in an electorate of over 12 million votes cast. The IEBC tally indicates that the margin is closer to 60,000 votes to put Kenyatta well into the winner's circle.
The problem? The tabulation of votes encountered difficulty with the new electronic voting system and manual tabulation in the rural areas. Mr. Odinga has petitioned the Kenyan Supreme Court to require the IEBC and Safaricom, Kenya's major telecom power house, to turn over election documents, so that he may evaluate the possibility of filing a petition to challenge the elections before the clock tolls on his right to do so. The Kenyan Supreme Court has jurisdiction in election matters under Kenya's new constitution. The Court will hear the petition to require the IEBC and Safaricom to disclose documents this week. The IEBC Facebook page has no indication yet of complying with the petition to turn over documents.
Civil society groups on the ground in Kenya report that while the elections were largely peaceful, tensions are still significant due to the uncertainty of the vote tabulation. Odinga's move to the courts in a bid for a peaceful resolution to the disputed elections is welcomed by many Kenyan's, and governments abroad.
One element of the elections is the International Criminal Court (ICC) case pending against Kenyatta and codefendant for inciting the violence of the 2007 elections where over 1,000 people lost their lives, and 600,000 were displaced from their homes. The ICC just dropped the case against Kenyatta's codefendant largely on grounds of lack of evidence the Kenyan government had not turned over, and tainted evidence. The decision is seen by some analysts as a precursor to a similar decision on Kenyatta's case. Media sources link Kenyatta's election victory in part to the case against him at the ICC, which some Kenyans may have viewed as "meddling" by the west in yet another version of neocolonialism. The U.S. Dept. of State comment on the elections congratulated the Kenyan people, but not Kenyatta, and urged peaceful dispute resolution through the courts.
Great effort by faith institutions, civil society, and local government have kept the calm during this round of elections. Hopefully, the Supreme Court's decision will find a justice that keeps the peace, and is one Kenyan's can live with.
Submitted by Kara Smith on Fri, 03/01/2013 - 8:45am.
Over the past month, we've asked you to help us make the release of Behind the Kitchen Door: What Every Diner Should Know About the People Who Feed Us a success — and UUs across the country answered the call!
To recap: we're aiming to get this new book by our partner the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United on the bestseller lists. Why? To help build a movement to improve conditions for millions of restaurant workers who earn poverty wages and lack basic benefits like earned sick leave.
It has been an exciting couple weeks as we've worked with you to get the word out, generate a buzz on social media, and team up with our allies at Standing on the Side of Love to honor compassionate consumption.
We're well on our way to changing the national conversation about restaurant workers!
- Approximately 625 UUSC members (over 100 more than our goal!) told us that they purchased Behind the Kitchen Door — if you did and haven't told us yet, please do!
- Behind the Kitchen Door was the #1 bestseller on Powell's for the critical 10 days after its release.
- The book was ranked #1 on Amazon in three categories and was in the top 400 books sold on Amazon.
- ROC-United's cofounder and codirector Saru Jayaraman was interviewed on Moyers & Company, CNN's Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien, and MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes.
We want to thank the hundreds of UUSC members and supporters who have helped by buying the book; passing information to their friends, congregations, and social circles; sharing videos, infographics, and reviews on social media; and purchasing a copy for their local library or their congregation's lending library.
Behind the Kitchen Door is a bestseller — and you helped make that happen!
All of this was done to help bring restaurant workers' rights the national attention they deserve — and we are gaining momentum! A few more ways you and fellow UUs are helping to do this:
- The Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN) is working with ROC-Philly to organize UUs, including mobilizing for earned sick days.
- The UU Church of Sarasota is coordinating community-wide Choose Compassionate Consumption activities linking national issues with local community partners.
- Unitarian Society of New Haven's Kid's Service Team are teaching youth about issues facing restaurant workers by creating a board game about how youth can use their consumer power as well as teach adults in their community. To celebrate their work, they will head to a restaurant using the ROC National Diners' Guide.
- First Parish in Plymouth is forming a study action group.
- In Michigan, Ethical and Mindful Eating groups from a number of congregations are coming together with ROC-Michigan to support their local campaigns.
I have also heard from many of you who are organizing book groups, making presentations, coordinating Justice Sunday services about labor rights in the food system, using UUSC's "Paying Customer, Paying Attention" stickers when you eat out, and much more.
We joined with ROC United on this campaign because we know that Behind the Kitchen Door is not just a book — it's an opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to change the national conversation about how to create a truly sustainable food system.
Together we are raising our voices to let policy makers know that we care about the people who feed us and that restaurant workers should be able to afford putting food on their own tables. In February, UUSC helped ROC-United make a big splash to highlight the deplorably low federal tipped minimum wage, which has been stuck at $2.13 per hour for more than 21 years. We participated in a restaurant-worker rally with earned-sick-leave proponent Rep. Rosa DeLauro, accompanied workers to visit their legislators on Capitol Hill, and witnessed the official announcement of the reintroduction of the WAGES Act (H.R. 650) by tipped-minimum-wage champion Rep. Donna Edwards. Stay tuned for legislative action you can take.
While this is only the beginning and it will take a concerted effort, we truly believe that we can win and make a real difference — to not only restaurant workers, but all minimum-wage earners. Thank you to all of you who are joining the movement!
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 9:18am.
I'll admit that sometimes I can be selfish; it can be a natural human impulse, a tendency toward self-preservation. Don't get me wrong, I'm also pretty empathetic, and I'm dedicated to advancing human rights — but I need to be healthy to do that. And in the case of dining out, a little bit of selfishness can be the extra incentive that consumers need to take action on a serious workers' rights issue: lack of paid sick days for restaurant workers.
A few weeks ago, prompted by the rounds of flu that were circling through offices and schools and public transportation in New England, I watched the movie Contagion (I like to freak myself out sometimes). It's a fictional movie, but nevertheless distressing. Images of a person coughing cut to scenes minutes later of seizures and death — then it's another person, then it's millions more.
I think what I found most distressing about it is that it's not altogether that crazy of a concept, especially given the ways that the U.S. restaurant industry has set itself up to be a petri dish for food-borne illness. What am I talking about? As Saru Jayaraman writes in Behind the Kitchen Door, "In ROC's survey of more than 4,000 restaurant workers, we found that 90 percent did not have access to paid sick days, and, with a median wage nationally of $9.02, most cannot afford to take a day off from work. The result? Two-thirds of all restaurant workers reported preparing, cooking, and serving our meals while sick. Two-thirds!"
Jayaraman tells us how in 2011, nearly 3,000 people in Fayetteville, N.C., had to be vaccinated against hepatitis after they were exposed to it at a restaurant where a server couldn't take a day off work without losing his job. And she reminds us that Mary Mallon (also known as "Typhoid Mary"), who was identified as the first carrier of typhoid in the United States, was a cook who likely infected 53 people between 1900 and 1907.
As Jayaraman wrote in a CNN op-ed, "One in six Americans gets sick from a food-borne illness every year, and when those instances can be traced to a single cause, in more than half of cases it's a restaurant. Specifically, research shows that somewhere between 48% to 93% of all food-borne norovirus outbreaks may be tracked back to sick food service workers."
Of all the egregious practices of the restaurant industry — ridiculously low wages, blatant discrimination, little respect — the lack of paid sick days is one that consumers can't simply ignore and pretend to be immune to its effects. If you go out to eat and get sick because the chef or the server is working with a cold or worse, it's going to affect you — and probably your family and coworkers and friends, too.
So it's time to get paid sick days for restaurant workers on the books. For the sake of workers who deserve to take care of themselves and for the sake of our own health. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a UUSC partner organization cofounded by Jayaraman, is working at the local, state, and federal levels to get laws that ensure paid sick days passed.
You can take action on this issue and help change the national conversation about restaurant workers' rights. Start here:
- Buy and read Behind the Kitchen Door. In it, you'll find compelling stories about what happens when restaurant workers don't have access to paid sick days.
- Tell us you bought the book. We're working to get Behind the Kitchen Door on the bestseller lists so that this issue gets the national attention it deserves and vital discussion and action follow.
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 3:04pm.
A friend of mine from high school worked as a waitress in a pub-style restaurant for years. Once she was in an accident outside of work that left her severely burned. Though her hands were wrapped in so much gauze that only the tips of her index fingers and thumbs were visible and usable, she had to go back to work after a week, because she had no paid sick days and couldn't afford to miss more work or risk losing her job. So she served food and poured beers with bandaged hands as they slowly healed. Her boss said nothing.
After reading Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru Jayaraman, I realized that stories like my friend's aren't a crazy exception; they're really just the tip of the iceberg. Most importantly, I learned what we — people who love to eat out — can do about it.
In Behind the Kitchen Door, Jayaraman highlights the plethora of injustices that the restaurant industry perpetuates day in and day out. And she is in a position to know: as cofounder and codirector of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a UUSC partner, she has worked with restaurant workers for more than 10 years. She outlines the major industry offenses:
No paid sick days
And this in an industry where we should especially want the people cooking our food and serving us to be healthy!
A ridiculously low tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour
See why I always tip 20 percent minimum? Because otherwise servers might not be able to feed themselves.
Stats prove there's often a racial disparity between front-of-house workers and workers behind the kitchen door. People of color are being denied opportunities for advancement.
Women face a particular set of challenges in the industry, from a pay gap that benefits male servers over female servers to rampant sexual harassment.
Jayaraman also explores the popular interest in sustainable food — and how much it is at odds with the labor practices of a restaurant industry that is trying to cash in on that interest. She writes: "Food can't really be healthy, ethically consumed, or sustainable if it's prepared and served in an environment that permits abuse, exploitations, and discrimination. It's definitely not sustainable to eat food served by workers who cannot afford to feed their families and face the added burden of having their wages and tips stolen. Sustainable food, by definition, must include sustainable labor practices."
Behind the Kitchen Door offers lots of shocking statistics culled from years of on-the-ground research by ROC-United. But most movingly, Jayaraman introduces you to the people behind the statistics. Claudia, a server who had to flirt with cooks for food, since she couldn't otherwise afford to eat on her meager pay. Oscar, a superb busser denied the chance to become a waiter because he wasn't white. Alicia, a former pastry chef and woman of color who quickly hit the industry's glass ceiling and both endured and witnessed blatant sexual harassment by an abusive executive chef.
As I read their stories, I thought of another friend of mine who worked at a café where she had to repeatedly worry about whether her paycheck would bounce. Even if your restaurant is unsuccessful, you have a responsibility to pay people for their work in a timely manner (or face the legal consequences, which in Massachusetts include paying triple the original amount). When the owner suggested he pay people under the table (at a lower rate than before, claiming that it was essentially the same since taxes wouldn't get deducted), my friend got in trouble for bringing up state labor and wage laws.
Reading the book's stories of struggle can be intense — but the book provides the antidote, too: Workers who win significant victories. "High-road" employers who run successful businesses while respecting their workers. Nikki and Woong, who organized creative "Carrot Mob" events to show support for high-road restaurants and won paid sick leave for more than 500 workers.
And then there's the best part: chapter 7, "Recipes for Change," in which Jayaraman gives us road map to use our consumer power for good. She lays out concrete actions we can take to help make the restaurant industry truly sustainable.
Here's how you can start:
- Buy Behind the Kitchen Door. You can help put it on the bestseller lists and change the national conversation about this issue.
- Tell us that you ordered the book. If you're one of the first 100 people, you'll get a gift packet from UUSC.
This book is essential reading for all people who care about workers' rights and their own health and enjoyment while dining out, and I look forward to hearing what you think about it. And I'm even more excited to see the changes that I know we can help make in the restaurant industry.
Submitted by Paul Twitchell on Thu, 01/31/2013 - 2:38pm.
Updated on Fri, 02/01/2013 - 3:30pm.
Updated on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 11:25am.
Updated on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 11:25am.
UUSC is mourning the sudden death of long-term employee Dick Campbell on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. A dedicated UUSC team member since 1995, Dick leaves behind a legacy of robust media outreach, effective communications mentoring, and deep commitment to UUSC's mission of advancing human rights and social justice.
As UUSC's senior associate for media and public affairs, Dick developed and led the organization's media-outreach program. He served as a chief spokesperson for UUSC, implemented communications strategies to enhance the organization's mission, worked to place key messages in a wide variety of media, and collaborated with other staff members to be effective public representatives for UUSC. He worked in a number of positions at UUSC in his more than 15 years at UUSC, including as an organizer of the JustWorks initiative.
Before coming to UUSC, Dick was an award-winning journalist for metropolitan-area newspapers in New Jersey and Massachusetts for more than 20 years. His experience included six years as a State House bureau chief and senior political writer, covering two presidential campaigns and three national political conventions, as well as all branches of state, federal, and local governments. He also served for eight years as editor-in-chief of a Boston-area community newspaper.
UUSC President and CEO Bill Schulz shares the following reflections on Dick's passing:
"UUSC is deeply saddened to announce the sudden death of Dick Campbell, who served our organization faithfully for 18 years, most recently as senior associate for media and public affairs. Dick was a sweet and gentle man, a skilled journalist, our resident historian, and a dear friend to all who knew him. He was devoted to UUSC and to the cause of justice. We are all richer for having had him in our midst and poorer for his loss."
To honor Dick's memory, UUSC is collecting remembrances to share with his family and community. Please share your thoughts, reflections, or special memories of him by e-mailing email@example.com or commenting below.
Submitted by Shelley Moskowitz on Thu, 01/31/2013 - 2:48pm.
We're excited to invite you to Washington, D.C., to raise your voices for a just recovery in Haiti. Mark your calendars and join us April 6–8, 2013, for the opportunity to lobby your legislators in support of a truly sustainable recovery.
This is your chance to gather with alumni of UUSC-UUA Haiti service-learning trips and others with a passion for justice to make sure that Haiti stays on the new Congress's radar. Participants will receive lobby training and support, meet with congressional leaders, and network with national allies and Haitian partners as we lift up Haiti's continued needs and alternative recovery models.
If you have questions or are interested in participating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: April 6–8, 2013
Where: Washington, D.C.
- Saturday, April 6: welcome reception, dinner, and overview
- Sunday, April 7: worship service, Haiti agricultural workshop, or roundtable discussion with partners and allies
- Monday, April 8: breakfast and advocacy training, lobbying on Capitol Hill, and closing reception and debrief
Above schedule is subject to change.
Watch this video for some thoughts from Nuala Carpenter, participant in the 2012 Haiti lobby day, on the experience and importance of engaging your representatives in Washington on these issues:
Submitted by Bill Schulz on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:48pm.
Anna Bartlett, an associate in UUSC's Civil Liberties Program, with a copy of Rights Now, UUSC's semiannual newsletter, in Egypt.
We have recently been through an election in this country in which young voters played an important role in the victories of progressive candidates, the growth in women officeholders, and the changes in norms indicated by increased support for marriage equality. As is true almost everywhere, youth are signaling the shape of our future society.
I teach a course in human rights every January at New York University. I love doing that not only because it provides me contact with some of the brightest young people of the new generation but also because it reminds me that all things are possible. My students are not jaded or cynical; most of them are founts of innovative ideas and unstaunched ambition. They are not afraid of testing "crazy" theories or challenging common assumptions.
That's why youth are so often the drivers of social change around the world, and since UUSC is bent on finding the most innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to the world's problems, it's also why we so often end up working with youth — in Haiti, Egypt, Kenya, and elsewhere. The new issue of Rights Now focuses in part on just that kind of work.
Nor do we forget that our own Unitarian Universalist youth can provide unlimited enthusiasm for social justice. The UU College of Social Justice, profiled in the new issue, is UUSC and the UUA's vehicle for tapping into that energy.
Young people are making a new world. UUSC is committed to seeing that it is a just world. The combination is exceptional!