Restaurant workers subject of UUA Common Read

All Unitarian Universalists are invited to read the book Behind the Kitchen Door this winter and spring. The book, by Saru Jayaraman, is the 2013-14 UUA Common Read. Congregations are encouraged to use the book as part of adult education and book group discussions and also in worship, as a way of reflecting on congregants’ dining-out practices and the lives of those who create and serve restaurant meals.

The book describes how restaurant workers live on very low wages, and how poor working conditions, including discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens, affect the meals that are served to us. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out.

She explains that what is at stake is not only our own health, but the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many of them immigrants and many of them people of color.

The author is cofounder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization working to improve conditions for restaurant workers. The book is a resource for the new minimum wage campaign announced July 18 by the UU Service Committee and the UUA. The campaign has a goal of raising the minimum wage to $10. The book, published by Cornell University Press earlier this year, is available from the UUA Bookstore for $21.95, with discounts for multiple copies. The book includes a free discussion guide.

UU College of Social Justice trips planned

The Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice’s new programs for this fall and into next spring include a two-week trip to India, two to Chicago to learn about organizing for justice in the food industry, and four involving immigration justice.

The India trip, through the UU Holdeen India Program is to the state of Gujarat, where participants will witness the work of the Self Employed Women’s Association, a Holdeen Program partner, and will learn about efforts to organize Dalits, the people once branded as “untouchables.”

In Chicago, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a partner of the UU Service Committee, will help participants on two trips learn about labor history, injustices in the restaurant industry, and organizing strategies.

The immigration justice trips, with BorderLinks, will delve into the connections between the food system and social justice and show how to stand with communities struggling for justice in the state of Chiapas. There is a separate program for seminarians. There are four trips in total.

Full information on the trips is on the UU College of Social Justice website.