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Black Star Co-Op earns national recognition for fair labor practices

Matthew Odam

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has included Austin brewpub Black Star Co-Op in its annual National Diners’ Guide to Ethical Eating. The guide provides information on wages, benefits, and the promotion practices of American restaurants, and puts a spotlight on businesses that excel in those areas.

Black Star, which opened in 2010, is the only Texas restaurant to be included in the guide based on the strength of their hourly wages and paid sick time for employees.

Black Star does not accept tips, instead choosing to pay their employees a “fair living wage.” Those wages start at $12/hour for all positions and go up after 90 days of work and again after the first year of service and each additional year of service. The co-op also offers employees three-and-a-half weeks of paid leave each year.

“When we started I made the decision we weren’t going to take tips because we own our own business. That was a pretty big guiding factor,” kitchen team leader Johnny Livesay said. “It’s really important for us that we get recognized for this because it is pretty unusual what we’re doing,”

The sleek restaurant and pub (located at 7020 Easy Wind Dr. next to the Crestview MetroRail station) had 12 owners when it signed its by-laws and has since expanded to include approximately 3,300 owners.

Though Black Star is the only Texas restaurant included in the list, Livesay says he knows there are other places that are meeting some of the benchmarks for inclusion and making concerted efforts to provide benefits and fare wages to employees.

“I’d like to figure out a way to get people together to get that recognition and start teaching our patrons that it’s important to care about how people are treated in restaurants,” Livesay said.