State of the Quilas, 4-27-2013

I discovered something this week: my geographical readership status is updated not only weekly and monthly, but quarterly as well. Which means Quilas is one quarter of a year old! I might switch to quarterly status updates, going forward. I have to think about it.

Anyway, with no further ado, here is: State of the Quilas!

INTERNATIONAL READERSHIP

This week’s International Readership update probably looks similar to that of two weeks ago, but it’s not. Mexico and the United Kingdom were added this past week. Oh yes, and this is a quarterly map!

quilas-update-1q

SPAM

Now, onto the best of this week’s spam! You will notice that between April 24th and 26, the ability to rate spam messages was removed. I wonder why.

quilas-fan-mail-spam-0424-0511
I know what you’re thinking: That’s not spam, it’s fan mail! But no, the site it links to has this in the Bio: “Delicately, softly, catchy moving moving company house removals moving company removal company movers move removal company”.
It’s for a moving company.

spam-0426-0236
So says the I Ching.

spam-0426-0316
Why, thank you! Feel free to comment any time.

spam-0426-1632
Yes. Yes it will.

FAN MAIL

This comes from a comment I made elsewhere:
quilas-fan-mail-0424-1216
Thanks for reading! You misspelled ‘shmnyc’.

quilas-fan-mail-0425-1215
That wasn’t me. You misspelled ‘shmnyc’ again.

Here’s another old one I found.
quilas-fan-mail-0413-1308
Sorry about the short attention span, Anonymous.

Thus ends another Quilas roundup. Until next time!

Restaurants

Six of the ten lowest-paying jobs in the country are in restaurants:1

  • Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers
  • Fast Food Cooks
  • Dishwashers
  • Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop
  • Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurants, Lounge and Coffee Shop
  • Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers

Employment Numbers for the Restaurant Industry in New York City2

Job Classification Number Employed Percentage
Short Order Cooks 5,440 1.267
Chefs and Head Cooks 11,750 2.736
Fast Food Cooks 12,630 2.940
Hosts and Hostesses 14,310 3.332
Non-Restaurant Servers 19,480 4.535
Bussers and Barbacks 21,450 4.994
Dishwashers 26,020 6.058
Bartenders 27,210 6.335
Counter Attendants and Baristas 30,320 7.059
Supervisors and Managers 37,300 8.684
Restaurant Cooks 48,750 11.350
Food Prep Workers 50,130 11.671
Waiters and Waitresses 124,740 29.041
_____ _____
429,530 100.000

 

INDUSTRY SEGMENTS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON

Violations reported in all industry segments, but appear to be concentrated in
(1) expensive “white table cloth” restaurants and (2) independent family-style restaurants, including ethnic restaurants. Fast food and chain and franchise restaurants appear to have fewer violations.

THE JOBS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON

“Back of the house” restaurant jobs: Dishwashers, delivery persons, food prep, line cooks, and porters.
“Front of the house” restaurant jobs: Bussers, runners, bathroom attendants, barbacks, cashiers, counter persons and coat checkers (and in some restaurants, waiters, waitresses and hosts).

Typical wages

    Back of the house jobs:

  • Dishwasher: $180 – $300 per week.
  • Delivery person: $120 – $200 per week.
  • Line cook/food prep: $250 – $400 per week.
    Front of the house jobs:

  • Busser/barback: $150 – $200 per week including tips.
  • Runner: $120 – $180 per week (rush hours only, usually paid as
    percentage of tips).
  • Coat check & bathroom attendants: $20 – $80 a night.
  • Cashiers/counter persons: $222 – $320 per week.
  • Waiters/waitresses: $300 – $480 per week including tips.

Typical hours
On average, kitchen staff tend to work 6 days a week, between 8 and 12 hours a day, with some dishwashers and cooks working double shifts. In the front of the restaurant, bussers and runners work the same hours as kitchen staff. Wait staff tend to work 3–5 days per week (hours can range from 20–45 per week).

Payment method
Dishwashers, runners, bussers, and delivery persons tend to be off the books, while servers, bartenders and managerial jobs are more likely to be on the books. High-end and chain restaurants have the majority of their sales on credit cards, which can force more jobs to be on the books.

Benefits
Health benefits are generally not offered to front-line staff; when offered, the employee co–pay is usually high, resulting in low take-up rates. In the kitchen, workers may get one week unpaid vacation, but no sick days.

Immigration status
High representation of undocumented immigrants in back of the house jobs (as well as some lower-wage jobs in the front). But long tenures in the industry mean that there are also significant numbers of documented immigrants.

INTERMEDIARIES PLACING WORKERS IN UNREGULATED JOBS

(1) Employment agencies for immigrant workers and (2) much less frequently, non-profit public agencies for people transitioning off welfare or out of prison. At employment agencies, placement fees range from $50 up to a weeks’ earnings, paid by the worker, plus possibly an additional $25 application fee. Some employment agencies specialize in restaurant placements for Mexican workers.

COMMON WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS

Minimum wage and overtime

  • Minimum wage: The industry’s pay structure of flat weekly wages for more than full-time work suggests that minimum wage violations are common. For example, typical earnings of $300 per week for 60 hours translates into an hourly wage of $5 (without considering time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours). Coat checkers and delivery persons can make as low as $3 an hour.
  • Overtime: Non-payment of overtime appears common for almost all positions.
  • Tips: For tipped positions, common violations include being paid only in tips, or the employer taking a percentage of tips. Bussers often do not get tips owed them.

Non-payment of wages
Occurs mainly for kitchen jobs, especially dishwashers. Can take the form of full non-payment, partial non-payment, or several months backlog of payment.

Illegal deductions
Workers report employers deducting arbitrary amounts from wages for broken plates, spoiled food, etc.

Meal breaks
Lack of meal breaks, or erratic meal breaks, is a pervasive problem. A single meal break for a 12-hour shift is common.

Employer taxes
Restaurants are heavily cash-based, and most workers do not receive pay stubs. Employer taxes are often not paid, or not paid for the actual number of workers on site.

OSHA
Health & safety violations occur mainly in kitchens: electrical dangers, inadequate fire safety, lack of cutting guards on machines, lack of slip mats, lack of required ventilation.

Workers’ Compensation
Rarely offered. Employers may pay a one-time hospital bill out of pocket in order to avoid an official claim, and instruct workers to say that the injury did not occur at work.

Discrimination
Evidence of discrimination in hiring and promotion on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, and accent – particularly for front of the house jobs. Harassment based on national origin and gender.

Retaliation & the right to organize
Employers’ retaliation in response to complaints about working conditions and attempts to organize include threats to call immigration, punishing the worker with bad shifts or bad hours, and outright retaliatory firing.

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1The 10 Lowest Paid Jobs in America
2Employment Numbers for the Restaurant Industry in New York City
3Unregulated Work in the Restaurant Industry in New York City
The Welcome Table

Sharon Zukin on Jane Jacobs

What’s a bobo?

Video

‘No 7-Eleven NYC’ Comes Clean

Finally! It was like pulling teeth!

Since shortly after their inception, I have maintained that No 7‑Eleven NYC is a group of people whose activities promote the interests of small businesses in the “East Village”. Nothing could have been more obvious from their literature. Yet when I raised the issue, here and on other forums, they denied it fervently. It was strange, but that’s what they did.

Well finally, in an email discussion I’ve been having with one of their leaders, they admit it:

email-from-n7e

So galling must it have been for them to admit this that they followed up immediately with:

email-from-n7e-shill

What I’ve written about them (12 out of a total of 45 posts) has been opposed to, not so much their aims as, the limitations of their aims. 7‑Eleven opening up was an opportunity to examine existing social relations in the neighborhood. I seized that opportunity; they didn’t. They could have shone a light on conditions of workers at bodegas, as I did. They could have examined why the choices were limited to 7‑Elevens and bodegas, as I did. Instead they ignored it all, focusing on superficialities and nativist fears.

I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that now that they’ve stepped forward and admitted their class bias, I’ll probably write less about them. They will go on promoting the interests of small-business owners over both their employees as well as their competitors (how will they do this when one bodega threatens another?), and I will continue to promote the interests of the workers. Once 7‑Eleven moves in, I will advocate for the people who work there, the way No 7‑Eleven NYC does not advocate for the people who work in bodegas.

***

But wait! What’s this?:

n7e-mission-stmt-chg

They’re going to start concerning themselves with labor? Hmmm, maybe I will keep writing about them.

See you in the salt mine.

Gated Communities, Redux

There are these people in the neighborhood who have a Twitter account, and have tweeted information about towns around the country that seek to prevent certain types of stores from opening within their boundaries. The idea is that the “East Village” should emulate this effort.

An interesting thing about these towns is that their populations are significantly lower than that of the “East Village”.

Print

An even more interesting fact is that the median household income of these towns is significantly higher.

Print

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All figures from City Data.

State of the Quilas, 4-20-13

I am going to combine the weekly spam update with the international readership update, into one weekly Quilas update. I’ll also throw in anything else I think will enthrall you. This week, I have fan mail!

So with no further ado, allow me to present: State of the Quilas!

INTERNATIONAL READERSHIP

This week in International Readership, we add Austria! A German friend of mine told me once “The Austrians are amazing people: They have the entire world believing that Hitler was German and Mozart was Austrian!” So, welcome Austria!

quilas-stats-30days-0420

SPAM

Now, onto the best of this week’s spam!

spam-comment-0411-2002

spam-comment-0411-2354

spam-comment-0413-0336

spam-comment-0414-0906

spam-comment-0416-0521

spam-comment-0414-1455

Wasn’t that some rattling good spam? Now, onto the fan mail.

FAN MAIL

Some of these go back a couple of weeks; I was going to write a different piece using them, but I never got a round tuit. Most of them are from someone named Anonymous.

evg-fan-comment-0401-1000
DUHHHHHH, indeed!

evg-fan-comment-0401-1200
Think before you type!

evg-fan-comment-0401-1229
Thanks, Anonymous!

evg-fan-comment-0402-1350
This Anonymous responds to himself. How annoying!

evg-fan-comment-0420-2106

So I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the netherworld of Quilas. As I told Big Brother on the other forum: Thanks for reading! Tell your friends!

Bodegas

When I first started this blog, one of the topics I wanted to write about was Working — working conditions, pay, and unemployment, primarily — on the large scale as well as local. It seems I’ve been doing this for a while now without even realizing it!

I came across some information recently, while writing No 7-Eleven NYC, Labor, and “Free Markets”, from the National Employment Law Project, a national advocacy organization for employment rights of lower-wage workers, to quote their web site. Some of this restates what I wrote already, except it focusses on violations of the law instead of exemptions from it, and is more specific to food stores:

    The grocery and supermarket industry is divided into three main segments:

    1. Green grocers, bodegas & delis sell fresh produce, dry and prepared foods, and household items. They are small stores and often family-run.
    2. Gourmet grocers are the fastest-growing industry segment and are defined by luxury products (including health food and organic food) and a high-income consumer base. Stores are mid-sized and often owned by chains, although some have independent owners.
    3. Supermarkets are larger, carry a wider range of products, and are often owned by chains. Historically, this segment has had higher union density and job quality, though both have been declining because of non-union competition.

    Wages and working conditions vary by industry segment and by the degree of unionization. The most unregulated stores are green grocers, bodegas and delis – margins are razor thin, wages are low, and workplace violations are chronic.

    Immigrants make up about two-thirds of the workforce, and increasingly hail from Latin America and especially Mexico. Many find jobs through friends and family already working in a store that is hiring. But some employers advertise in ethnic newspapers, and green grocers frequently hire workers through storefront employment agencies. Bodegas rely heavily on family members, who put in very long shifts.

    In our interviews, non-union grocery jobs were widely considered the least desirable of employment options. While the jobs are easy to get, requiring little English or previous training, they are exploitative and dead-end (“There’s only one type of job,” as a bodega owner put it). Turnover is high across all segments, although workers may stay in the industry for several years because there are few alternatives.

    INDUSTRY SEGMENTS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON
    • Green grocery stores, bodegas and delis (violations are prevalent).
    • Gourmet grocers/health food stores (violations are frequent).
    • Non-union supermarkets (common violations in some occupations).
    THE JOBS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON
    • Occupations – Occupations most impacted include cashiers, stock clerks, deli counter workers, food preparers, delivery workers, janitors, baggers, produce washers/watchers, and flower-arrangers.
    • Typical wages – Green grocery, bodega, and deli workers: $250-300 per week is typical. Produce washers and food preparers earn between $4 and $5 per hour.
    • Typical hours – Hours average 55-75 hours per week in green grocery stores; 40-60 hours per week in gourmet grocery stores; and 40-60 hours per week in non-union supermarkets.
    • Payment method – Workers are largely paid in cash at green grocery stores, with the exception of occasional cashiers and family members of the owners. Gourmet grocers and supermarkets generally pay on the books, though at least a few workers are always paid in cash.
    • Benefits – Health benefits and vacation and sick days are rare in non-union stores.
    THE WORKERS MOST AFFECTED BY WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS
      Workforce is almost exclusively immigrant, from Mexico, Central America, Korea, Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia. Delivery workers are mostly African immigrants. With the exception of cashier jobs, most occupations are male dominated. Ages range from the teens through the 40s.

      Green grocery and delivery workers are often undocumented. Some undocumented workers in gourmet grocery stores and supermarkets.

    INTERMEDIARIES PLACING WORKERS IN UNREGULATED JOBS
      Storefront employment agencies are frequently used, especially for off-the-books jobs, charging the workers $100-$300 per placement, or $10 for a day job.
    COMMON WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS
    • Minimum wage – Violations are pervasive in green grocery stores, bodegas and delis. Workers commonly put in 60-72 hours per week, often resulting in hourly wages below the minimum. For example, a worker paid $300 per week for 60 hours will earn $5 per hour (without considering time-and-a half-pay for overtime hours). The worst jobs can be paid as little as $2.50 an hour. Similar violations are found in gourmet stores, but are somewhat less pervasive. Violations in non-union supermarkets are concentrated in the most vulnerable occupations (baggers, delivery workers).
    • Overtime – Green grocery stores rarely pay overtime. Gourmet grocery stores may selectively pay overtime (e.g. after six months, or for more skilled workers). Non-union supermarkets often violate overtime laws for baggers and delivery workers.
    • Meal breaks – Meal breaks are erratic, and green grocery workers in particular can work up to 14-hour days without a meal break. Delivery workers typically do not get meal breaks and have to eat on the job.
    • Employer taxes – When employers pay in cash, they very rarely pay required taxes.
    • OSHA – Chemical and pesticide exposure is a serious issue for workers handling sprayed produce, with few safeguards or training by employers. Stockers do not receive mandated training on lifting and moving.
    • Workers’ Compensation – Smaller employers do not carry workers’ compensation, and across segments, workers rarely receive it when injured on the job.
    • Discrimination – Workers report hiring, firing and promotion based on immigration status, ethnicity and relationship to owner, as well as harassment based on immigration status.
    • Retaliation and the right to organize – Workers report being threatened, intimidated and fired for bringing complaints or attempting to organize.

Another topic I plan to take up soon is working in restaurants. If you want to get a jump on things, check out this web site.

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Unregulated Work in the Grocery and Supermarket Industry in New York City

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