Here, as promised, is what the DC Employment Justice Center and the D.C. affiliate of the Restaurant Opportunities Center have cooked up (pun intended) to address one of the big gaps in the District’s paid sick leave law — the exemption of restaurant wait staff and bartenders who receive part of their wages as tips.
It’s a Carrotmob. The carrot is an incentive to businesses to do the right thing. The mob is the collectivity of consumers that gives the incentive force. In short, a Carrotmob is the opposite of a boycott.
In the Carrotmob model, businesses are invited to bid for a rush of consumer spending and some good publicity by committing to some specified type of social action. Bids are assessed. And the winner gets as many customers on a specific day as the organizers are able to activate.
In the case of this first Carrotmob in the District, local restaurant owners and franchisees were invited to submit “brag sheets” about what they do for their workers, the environment and the community, plus whatever they wanted to say in praise of the food they serve. The fee for the free PR and the potential customer “mob” was public support for expanding our local paid sick leave law to cover all restaurant workers.
Six restaurant owners and franchisees took up the Carrotmob challenge. Now we have an opportunity to read their “brag sheets” and vote for the restaurant we think has the best workplace. We can also put in our two cents by commenting on what we know about the restaurants.
The organizers will let us know which restaurant gets the most votes. Then it will be our business to give it business on November 13, the second anniversary of the enactment of the District’s paid sick leave law.
I like this initiative because it focuses on what we can do to promote good business behavior. I might be happier if the entry fare were a commitment to provide — or to continue providing — paid sick leave for all the restaurant’s workers.
But, as the organizers point out, the Carrotmob is “the beginning of a conversation” with the local restaurant industry. Also a way of building awareness among affected workers and all of us in preparation for a campaign to secure broader coverage.
We’ve got the imperfect law we have now because local chapters of some powerful trade associations, including the National Restaurant Association, lobbied fiercely against any paid sick leave mandate. So the restaurants willing to make a commitment deserve some credit just for that.
Up to you how you weigh commitment versus practice. The important thing is to vote so the restaurants will know that the issue matters to their customers and prospective customers. You’ve got only a few days left because voting closes on Wednesday, November 3.