Edzo’s Burger Shop joins national restaurant movement in creating safe spaces for workers, customers
April 7, 2017
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Two Evanston-based restaurants have signed onto a national restaurant movement denouncing discrimination and establishing safe spaces for workers and customers following President Donald Trump’s election.
Edzo’s Burger Shop and The Amazing Kale Burger have signed onto a movement started by two advocacy organizations — Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Presente.org — that emphasizes human dignity and hospitality. Since its inception in late December, the movement has attracted more than 400 restaurant members, 30 of which are based in Chicago, affiliate director of ROC’s Chicago branch Felipe Tendick-Matesanz said.
“A sanctuary restaurant is (a place) at which regardless of a person’s identity, they are treated the same way as the rest,” Edzo’s owner Eddie Larkin said.
Though much of the feedback has been positive, restaurant owners have experienced some backlash, Tendick-Matesanz said, and even vandalism in some cases.
Larkin said Edzo’s has also received criticism since becoming a sanctuary restaurant in late January.
“There’s some negative PR,” he said. “Some people say they’ll boycott us or that we’re hiring ‘illegal aliens’ because it’s cheaper.”
Tendick-Matesanz said the movement is sometimes mistaken as a form of legal representation for immigrants. Rather, he said, the movement’s purpose is to establish safe spaces for all workers and customers of the food industry.
The sanctuary restaurant movement is necessary because of the diversity of the restaurant industry’s workforce, Tendick-Matesanz said. He added that restaurant workers rely on government assistance at three times the rate of the general workforce because of low wages and the targeting of programs like food stamps.
“The industry is also the largest employer of immigrants, and one of the largest employers of Muslims and LGBTQ (workers),” he said.
According to research conducted by ROC, 70 percent of food service workers in Chicago are immigrants. Nationally, the industry includes 12 million workers, including 1.3 million workers who do not have legal status.
Jenny Phan (Weinberg ’15) has been involved in the food industry since graduating from Northwestern by helping in kitchens of various Chicago-based restaurants. She said she believes the largely immigrant-supported industry benefits from the sanctuary restaurant movement.
“I regard the sanctuary restaurant movement as something positive, regardless of any criticism that restaurants are doing it for extra PR,” Phan said. “It’s about time that businesses value employees as much as customers.”
Tendick-Matesanz agreed the movement has been beneficial for workers. He said it has promoted safety by combating an “uptick of bullying, harassment and discrimination of marginalized groups” over the past year. In the case that a worker faces some form of discrimination, they can text a number to receive assistance from ROC.
Phan said these safety precautions help protect restaurant workers from a “high-pressure environment.”
“Some minority restaurant workers still face harassment by other co-workers and decreased opportunity for promotion,” Phan said. “Given the current political and social climate, I believe that some restaurant workers are reasonably afraid of the repercussions and consequences of their identity.”
This article was updated to clarify the reason that restaurant workers rely on government assistance at three times the rate of the general workforce.
Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted Felipe Tendick-Matesanz and misstated a statistic about the restaurant industry. Tendick-Matesanz said the restaurant industry is the largest employer of immigrants, and that the restaurant sanctuary movement has promoted safety over the past year. Nationally, the industry includes 12 million workers. The Daily regrets the errors.
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