May Day: A Vision for Restaurant Workers

Karlos Gauna Schmieder

Today, along with partners at Rockwood Leadership Institute, we’re releasing the latest installment of VisionTalk. VisionTalk is a multi-media series brought to you by Center for Media Justice designed to spark a dialog about social movement culture, strategy, and vision.

This Not Ted Style talk, with Restaurant Opportunities Center United’s (ROC-United) Saru Jayaraman, offers a peek behind the scenes of how it looks to build a movement for restaurant workers.

“The restaurant industry is the largest industry in America, proliferating the lowest paying jobs,” says Jayaraman. “Seven of ten of the lowest paid jobs in America and the two absolute lowest paying jobs – dishwashers and fast food preps and cooks – are restaurant workers.”

Jayaraman is part of a generation of progressive leadership facing pressure to grow quickly, causing internal tension between running an organization and being a leader of a national movement.

“A lot of us went national at about the same time,” says Jayaraman. ”We went national out of demand. “There were restaurant workers from all over the country who were organizing and wanted our help.”

Connecting with the growing food movement that seeks an ethical and sustainable culture around food, the restaurant workers are building a powerful voice to compete with the restaurant industry lobby.

We hope to use the ROC United story and this platform to spark a discussion about the types of leadership, networks, and cultural strategies are needed to achieve the vision of ground up social movements across the country.

Use #CMJVisionTalk to tell us your leadership story on Twitter, and as always hit that like button above to share with your networks.

Saru Jarayaman received leadership development and capacity building through Building Capacity for Organizational Resilience & Renewal, launching a partnership with consultant Shiree Teng to address the internal tensions within movements that challenge growth. She is currently touring with her new book, “Behind the Kitchen Door.” 

 

 

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