UC Berkeley Activist, Amy Poehler Spotlight Restaurant Industry Harassment at Golden Globes

Dozens of actors — and a University of California, Berkeley activist — used the 2018 Golden Globe Awards to send a message against sexual harassment.

What started as the #MeToo movement became the “Time’s Up” initiative at the awards ceremony.

Eight activists, including Rosa Clemente, Ai-jen Poo and Tarana Burke, were invited by celebrities to attend the Golden Globes. Another was Saru Jayaram, who is fighting discrimination and harassment in the restaurant industry.

Jayaraman, the co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, said Sunday's 75th annual Golden Globes gave her a national platform to address sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.

Jayaraman recalled receiving a message from "Parks and Recreation" and "Saturday Night Live" actor Amy Poehler, which read: “Hi Saru. This is Amy Poehler. Will you come with me to the Hollywood prom?”

The comedian wasn’t joking in her text, Jayaram said, with a laugh.

For the past two decades, Jayaraman has been leading the fight to end discrimination in the restaurant industry. She said attending the Golden Globes was historic and it’s already leading to real policy change.

“I have gotten texts from restaurant owners from all over the country saying, ‘I want to do something. Let’s talk,’” Jayaraman said. “And that’s huge!”

The restaurant industry is the fastest growing and second largest sector of the U.S. economy. But those jobs are among the lowest paying and are plagued by a high rates of sexual harassment.

“Half the rate of harassment in our industry in California is still the highest rate of harassment of any industry in California,” Jayaraman said.

Employees in the restaurant industry are dependent on tips so they put up with a lot of inappropriate customer behavior, she said. Jayaram advised restaurant owners that ending the “customer is king” approach to service is one way to help reduce sexual harassment.

Now as Hollywood says that “time’s up,” Jayaraman says it’s time to focus on women in the restaurant industry.

“It’s a world in which they are told to dress more sexy, show more cleavage in order to make more money in tips,” Jayaraman said. “So if we want our daughters to have a good experience at their first job, because that impacts them for the rest of their lives, we have got to change this industry.”

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