Safe reopening conditions for restaurants and restaurant workers in Michigan

Safe reopening conditions for restaurants and restaurant workers in Michigan

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Michigan Bar & Restaurant Workers Association started this petition to Michigan Governor and

To whom it may concern: the people of Michigan, state representatives, Governor Whitmer, and all involved directly and indirectly with the food/beverage/service industry, 

As the reopening of bars and restaurants grows nearer, so do our concerns as workers of this industry. Specifically, regarding our return to a safe workspace.

We have seen “essential” workers: nurses, bus drivers, grocery store attendants, and doctors fall severely ill and, in some cases, die as a result of exposure to COVID-19.  While these individuals have been asked to put their lives on the line to provide the services deemed most necessary, there has been an increase in the safety procedures and practices implemented to ensure their well-being. Conversely these same precautions, like the requirement of face masks, cannot extend to the restaurant setting.

There are a number of variables for which there is no clear measure that can guarantee the safety of food service workers and our guests:

  1. We are constantly handling things like silverware, glassware, and plates that have come into direct contact with guests and their mouths.  Additionally, table and bar service require us to interact with guests while taking orders, checking tables, and delivering food and beverages.  How can we make sure customers are not putting employees at risk? 
     
  2. There are issues regarding shared restrooms, the touching of doorknobs, the shared use of a dining room, it’s ventilation system, and lengthy guest interactions, all of which provide a fertile environment for the spread of an infectious disease.  How can we guarantee a safe experience for our guests? 
     
  3. Furthermore, the issues surrounding policing safety standards are not realistic, especially considering all the violent reactions that have been encountered by employees of many other industries around the country from people that are unwilling to accept or follow mandated safety measures.  How can we effectively enforce social distancing standards and the use of face masks, the latter of which is impossible to do while people are eating and drinking? 
     
  4. What’s more, many in our industry are uninsured and the vast majority are not given paid sick leave. It is a common practice in the industry to make people work when they are not well.  Who will provide workers paid leave in the event they fall sick and are unable to work?  Who will be in charge of providing testing and the material necessary for restaurant workers to ensure a safe service and working environment?
     
  5. Servers and bartenders are paid well below minimum wage and rely on tips, tips that are in direct correlation with volume. It is an industry that runs at a slim profit margin and the reliance on high volume and guest turnover is integral to a bar or restaurants success, and directly affects workers ability to provide for themselves and their families.  How can we ensure a steady income for workers and the prolonged sustainability of establishments when there is a limited capacity? 
      

Simply put, the precautions that are necessary to ensure the safety of ourselves and our guests seem both unreasonable and unattainable at this juncture.  The ability to spread this highly contagious virus is too great.

This combination of risks and a lack of substantial safety measures makes for a volatile and potentially dangerous situation.  While we are eager to return to service, our personal well-being and the safety of our loved ones and our guests is our number one priority.  We are asking for the establishment of a number of explicit, required, and enforceable precautions and safety nets.  These should be implemented to ensure our safety and the safety of our guests.

We are pleading with you to address and solve these problems before following thru with this rushed decision about when and how to reopen. Furthermore, we feel that our voice must be heard and that the representation of workers and independent restaurant owners throughout the state must be considered.  We are afraid that reopening an entire industry under unsustainable and dangerous conditions will have deadly consequences. 

With the only directions being a reduced capacity and ‘trying’ to maintain social distancing, we run the risk of spreading this horrible disease to a vulnerable population.  While the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) has made their agenda apparent, it in many ways contradicts our platform of personal and communal safety. Ultimately, we want to make sure our voices and our concerns are being heard as well.

When it comes to the lives of thousands of workers and customers, ‘trying’ is simply not enough.

P.S. We encourage all bar and restaurant workers in the state to organize and reach out for further actions at miserviceindustryworkers@gmail.com

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At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!