Come join us for a lively discussion with our speakers Lucas Turner-Owens of the Boston Ujima Project, a capacity-building initiative to bring Greater Boston area business owners, investors, and workers together in creating a community-controlled economy and Yamila Ruiz, High Road Director of RAISE, the High Road Employer Association at Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, which advocates for sustainable business models that champion living wages, basic benefits, and fair promotion policies. This thought-provoking conversation will be moderated by Mei Mei Street Kitchen and Mei Mei Restaurant's very own, Chef, Operating Manager and Co-Founder, Irene Li. We can't wait to hear about the many exciting projects these champions of fair restaurant wages are embarking on, see you on the 19th!
Irene operates Mei Mei Street Kitchen & Mei Mei Restaurant in Boston, where her work centers around ethical sourcing and fair employment practices. Her businesses merge modern techniques and multicultural cuisine with local foods and sustainable business practices. Mei Meiʼs creative, farm-driven, Chinese American food has been featured in Food & Wine, The New York Times, People, Bon Appetit and more. Ireneʼs life experiences range from organic farming to prison education and many things in between, and while she never expected a life in the restaurant industry, her desire to create change and care for those around her remains constant. At Mei Mei, Irene directs a groundbreaking open book management training program in conjunction with Rethink Restaurants. Sheʼs working to provide the entire team, from dishwashers to sous chefs, with valuable financial know-how and business management skills, and an opportunity for profit-sharing. She is an Eater Young Gun winner, Zagat and Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree, and a five-time James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef semi-finalist.
Yamila Ruiz, RAISE Director, High Road Employer Association at ROC United
As Director of RAISE, the High Road Employer Association at ROC United, Yamila helps support restaurant owners who are part of ROC United’s national employer network to advocate for sustainable business models that champion living wages, basic benefits, fair promotion policies, among other "high road" employer practices as recipes for success. Convened by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), the leading restaurant workers' rights advocacy organization in the country, RAISE is changing the conversation about wages and labor practices for one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the country. Prior to joining ROC United, Yamila has worked in various sectors of the restaurant industry throughout her career. Until last year, Yamila was the Legal Organizer for ROC United, leading the Sanctuary Restaurants project to create safer spaces for all within the restaurant industry. She also provided legal support to ROC chapters nationwide to better assist restaurant workers and employers working towards increasing equity in the industry. Prior to that, she served as the Research & Policy Organizer at the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Boston working on the One Fair Wage campaign to eliminate the subminimum wage for all tipped workers in Massachusetts.
Lucas Turner-Owens, Fund Manager, Boston Ujima Project
The Boston Ujima Project is working to organize Greater Boston area neighbors, workers, business owners, and investors to create a community-controlled economy. Ujima is led by the Center for Economic Democracy (CED), a “movement strategy and capacity building organization” which convenes local stakeholders to collaborate toward social, political, and economic transformation. Lucas provides Technical Assistance to entrepreneurs, connects them with business support organizations, gives financial education to Ujima's investor base, does loan packaging, underwriting, and manages Ujima's portfolio of investments. Prior to joining the Ujima Project, Lucas worked as an economic policy analyst for Operation HOPE, a nonprofit focused on consumer financial education. Lucas has also provided technical assistance and expansion loans from a network of impact investors to grow social enterprises and worker-owned co-operatives at Cooperation DC. As a Senior Analyst at Next Street Financial, Lucas applied his background in small business development and public policy to support clients making impact investments and strategic growth decisions.