I’m Running for Office This November Because I’m a Chef and My Whole Industry Is at Stake – Bon Appetit

Restaurant News

My partner and I opened Morris Ramen in December of 2016. We had a newborn son and a 21-person staff, full of people at different junctures in their lives yet all committed to helping us nourish the community with soup. For two people about to open their first restaurant, we were surprisingly optimistic in the months leading up to it, but the 2016 election made us re-evaluate our identity and purpose. It wasn’t enough to just nourish the community; the election of Donald Trump was an attack on marginalized, working people, many of them part of the restaurant industry. We were traumatized, but we put on our aprons and went to work, trying to make our space a safe, stable, and inclusive place for our employees and customers. We raised money for Planned Parenthood. We helped form a group for women and non-binary industry professionals to support one another. We were still hopeful.

But when the pandemic hit earlier this year, we couldn’t just keep working. With the health of our workers and guests at stake, my husband and I felt we had no choice but to close our dining room indefinitely. We clumsily helped our staff retain some sense of temporary financial security as we tried to navigate the broken Wisconsin unemployment insurance system. We paid staff in full for as long as we could and pushed gift cards and merchandise sales to try to ease some financial burdens. We were adapting every way we knew how, while leadership at local, state, and federal levels failed to provide adequate safety nets for their constituencies. Meanwhile, leaders in the Madison food community pooled resources, time, and efforts to reach out to officials to state our case for saving small, independently owned restaurants in the food and beverage community. The responses we got were timid. Small independent restaurants were left out of traditional grants and loans made available by financial institutions. I was fielding calls left and right from servers, cooks, managers, and restaurant owners, trying to figure out the next step. We received messages from folks who were afraid of losing their homes and who said their calls to unemployment offices were being ignored—and we received overwhelming gratitude when we offered free meals to service industry workers. We were all asking for help, and we were all terrified.

By Mother’s Day this year, amid the reckoning over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and still figuring out our role as restaurants in the growing social justice revolution, I declared my run for office as a Democrat in Wisconsin’s 76th State Assembly District. The pandemic was a call to action and a call to wake the fuck up. Despite the crises of systemic racism, of the pandemic, and a global climate crisis—I saw that our industry came together to feed the vulnerable, to share resources, to invest in mutual aid and show solidarity in struggle and in care. So why couldn’t our elected officials take on that same leadership? They asked the restaurant communities with limited resources to pivot, adapt, and change, yet refused to see that they themselves must adjust the rules and recognize that the game is rigged for the working person. I’m in a position to bring an intersectional perspective to our state government being a service industry worker, a mom and an organizer. I know that strengthening the restaurant community through holistic policies that empower our workers with better housing, wages, and food systems will make our industry become more equitable, inclusive, and continue to strengthen our local economies.

Our industry as a whole is in desperate need of restructuring, but guess what? So is our government. The ability of the restaurant business to meaningfully change depends heavily on politics—and on the outcome of this next election. The inequities across every sector of the hospitality industry—and our deep roots in white supremacy—have been exposed, but none of the structural changes we need to make will be sustainable without shifts in economic and social policy. From immigrant rights and protecting farm workers to minimum wage laws, health care, and small business subsidies, it all comes back to the policies that shaped restaurants and how normalized they have become.

Source: Thanks https://www.bonappetit.com/story/whats-at-stake-for-the-restaurant-industry-this-election