Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Some healthcare relief for restaurant workers, many of whom are undocumented

A pilot program in Los Angeles is promising to provide health coverage for uninsured restaurant workers, including undocumented ones. The plan is to launch a cooperative, funded in part by the Kaiser Community Benefits Fund and the California Wellness Fund, that for a contribution of $25 a month will allow its members access to primary care, preventive care, dental care and other basics through a community clinic.

KPCC's OnCentral blog cited some interesting statistics and labor practices, the latter from Mariana Huerta, one of the organizers of the project:

Research released by Los Angeles Restaurant Industry Coalition in 2011 reported that only 18 percent of L.A. restaurant workers made a livable wage ($19.88 or higher). More than 80 percent of workers don't receive regular raises, and 75 percent have never been promoted. Overall, 89.9 percent of all restaurant workers don't receive employer health insurance " that's more than 225,000 employees, and 75,000 of them are undocumented. The co-op aims to work as a safety net for that uninsured demographic.

"For low-wage workers, we're seeing that many of them don't have benefits," said Huerta. "They go to work sick, because they don't have the opportunity to be able to take a day off and risk not being able to pay rent or their bills."

Discrimination is an obstacle to low-wage workers, particularly Latinos and blacks, reaching those better positions, noted Huerta.

"Workers are reporting to us that they have several years of experience, serving, bar tending " and when they try to get jobs in these high-end restaurants, they're denied," she said. "You can walk into any restaurant in West L.A. or Beverly Hills and who's your server? Probably a young, white actor-looking person. Very few Latinos and African-Americans in the front of the house. Discrimination is a huge problem."

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