Mass shutdowns and layoffs due to the spread of COVID-19 are affecting millions of restaurant workers across the U.S., with bars and restaurants closing for the foreseeable future. Servers, bartenders, kitchen staff and more have been left in the lurch, many without paid sick leave, paid time off or benefits. One study estimated 4 million restaurant workers in the U.S. are at risk of losing their jobs in a matter of weeks. For more on the impacts on service workers, we speak with Saru Jayaraman, the co-founder of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and president of One Fair Wage, which has launched an emergency fund to support workers during this time. We also speak with Damani Varnado, a restaurant worker who has worked in catering, fine dining and cocktailing for the past 20 years in New York City. He was working at the restaurant Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs when the whole staff was let go during the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak is a “devastating” blow to an industry that had “severe structural inequality problems that existed long before this crisis,” Saru Jayaraman says.
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