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Labor advocacy group claims race inequality in Metro Detroit's restaurant industry

Lena Nicholson
Flickr Creative Commons

There is occupational segregation and inequality in Metro Detroit's restaurants, according to a report by Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a restaurant workers advocacy group.

Teofilo Reyes, the group's national research director, said minority workers are substantially under-represented in better paid restaurant jobs in Metro Detroit. "When you look at the fine dining bartenders and servers, you see that only 20% are minority workers, " he said, adding that in comparison, 46% of all restaurant workers are minorities.

Minorities are less likely than whites with the same qualifications to get jobs as servers in upscale Detroit restaurants, according to Reyes. He said equally credentialed pairs of white testers and testers of color were sent into 88 fine dining establishments where weekend dinners are about $40 per person, including beverage but not tip.

Reyes said heavy reliance on informal social networks and lack of clear standards in hiring and advancement  may contribute to these results. "We think restaurants need to adopt more formal  promotions and employment practices that are open and available to all, " he said.

Reyes said the the restaurant industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Metro Detroit economy, with more than 60,000 workers.

In a written statement, the Michigan Restaurant Association disputed the group's report as dubious research from a labor union front group.

– Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom