WASHINGTON, May 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Advocates across the United States are demonstrating at Olive Garden restaurants today to urge the chain and its parent company, Darden Restaurants, Inc., to improve food-sourcing and labor practices. Demonstrations are taking place in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco and include the delivery of a petition signed by more than 130,000 people.
"As the world's largest employer of tipped workers, Darden could be a leader for fair wages but instead spends millions lobbying to keep the minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13," said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Center-United.
The actions are a part of the "Good Food Now!" campaign, a partnership of Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Restaurant Opportunities Center-United, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Green America, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Animal Welfare Institute. Key supporters include CREDO Action, Sum of Us, Food Democracy Now!, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Organic Consumers Association, International Labor Rights Forum and Fair World Project.
"Olive Garden claims to serve responsibly produced food, but serving meat and dairy produced in polluting factory farms with routine antibiotics is not responsible," said Kari Hamerschlag, with Friends of the Earth. "Families want healthier, local and organic options — including more plant-based entrees and more humane meat raised without routine antibiotics."
"Olive Garden needs to move beyond empty rhetoric and respond with a more compassionate and environmentally-friendly menu," said Stephanie Feldstein, with Center for Biological Diversity. "Good food must be sustainable for people, communities and the planet."
The petition urges Darden to reduce meat and dairy purchases; source meat from producers that adhere to verifiable higher-than-industry animal-welfare standards; improve worker wages; and increase local and organic options. Darden has failed to address these issues or meet with the groups.
The nation's leading casual-dining operator had $6.7 billion in sales in 2015 from over 1,500 restaurants worldwide. Olive Garden is its biggest brand.
"Olive Garden and Darden can spearhead reforms that not only improve the working conditions for their employees, but innovate the entire industry," said Phillip Hamilton, with Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
"As the nation's largest restaurant employer, Darden can raise millions of workers and their families out of poverty by raising wages and providing sick leave for all of its employees," said Jose Oliva, with Food Chain Workers Alliance.
"Darden's commitment to phase out gestation crates and battery cages is a step in the right direction," said Michelle Pawliger, with the Animal Welfare Institute. "But they must source more meat and dairy from producers who meet higher welfare standards."
"Consumers are concerned about where their food comes from and how it was made, and restaurants are no exception," said Elizabeth Jardim, with Green America. "Darden needs to source more ingredients from local farmers and pay all workers in its supply chain, fairly."
For more information, visit Good-food-now.com.
CONTACT: Kate Colwell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-222-0744
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SOURCE Friends of the Earth U.S.