Food Labor Research Center

The Food Labor Research Center was launched in Fall 2012 by Saru Jayaraman, and became a project of the Labor Center at University of California Berkeley. The Food Labor Research Center also has affiliation and active involvement with the Berkeley Food Institute at UC Berkeley.  Saru Jayaraman serves as a Visiting Scholar with BFI and is a Lecturer with the Goldman School of Public Policy. She is teaching courses on labor in food systems, and undertaking collaborative research with other UCB researchers on consolidation in the food system, human rights of food system workers, and related issues.

While there are several University centers that focus on labor studies, the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley is the first academic institution in the country to focus on the intersection between food and labor issues.  For more information about the Food Labor Research Center, please see here.

Cooks in restaurant kitchen. From Jayaraman's book "Behind the Kitchen Door"
From Jayaraman’s book “Behind the Kitchen Door”

Working Below the Line

Principal Investigators: Laurel Fletcher (Law), Saru Jayaraman (Food Labor Research Center), and Allison Davenport (Law)
Collaborators: Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Food Chain Workers Alliance
Funded through the BFI Seed Grant Program

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration to ensure an existence worthy of human dignity. However, for many low-wage tipped workers in the U.S. restaurant industry these standards are out of reach. Rooted in exploitation of workers, the custom of tipping has evolved since its origins in the late nineteenth century. It has become codified in a two-tiered minimum wage system that denies tipped restaurant workers fair wages and basic labor protections. This report sheds light on the ways in which federal and state laws maintain this wage structure and enable working conditions in the restaurant industry that violate fundamental human rights protections for tipped workers, particularly women and people of color. This human rights analysis points to significant human rights deprivations and the need for new laws and policies. Download the full report here.