worker pay

Report Finds San Francisco Massively Underpays Minority Restaurant Workers

Hard at work, naturally.

San Francisco has America’s most Michelin stars per capita and was the second city to pass a $15 minimum wage — two reasons it’s highly sought after by people in the restaurant industry. But a new report by the workers-advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center could really rough up this glowing reputation: Surveys filled out by 525 Bay Area workers reveal that a serious pay gap is plaguing minorities in the city.

The study was meant to be a comprehensive look at issues facing the city’s restaurant workforce, and of course it found the usual problems (wage violations, pay stagnation, the bane of sky-high rents). The surprising discovery, though, was the disparity between white and nonwhite workers’ wages: ROC says the city’s worst offenders are “fine-dining restaurants” (defined as places where the average tab was more than $40 per person). At these spots, women on average made $3.34 less per hour than their male counterparts, which is troubling enough, but the gap for minority workers was almost twice that. They collected $6.12 less per hour than white workers.

ROC says that’s the largest race-based pay gap it’s aware of anywhere in the country. San Francisco restaurateurs mostly blame it on the inherent wage differences between front- and back-of-house staff; because servers get tips, they’ll sometimes pull in two to three times as much as kitchen workers, a much greater percentage of whom are minorities. The cruel irony is that San Francisco’s restaurant-industry pay is the highest in the U.S., partly because the city’s wage laws are so progressive in general. And the report notes a pay gap isn’t all that’s handicapping minority workers: “In particular, we found that occupational segregation, wage violations including misappropriation of tips and service charges, and inadequate access to housing were all severe and had a disproportionate impact on workers of color.”

San Francisco Restaurants Underpay Minorities