New York, Mar 14: An Indian-American activist has been honoured for taking up the cause of South Asian and other restaurant workers here. Sarumathi Jayaraman has been included in the annual list of noted people titled ''40 under 40'' by Crain's New York Business weekly. Every year, the magazine honours 40 people under the age of 40, who have made significant contributions to the society. Known as Saru, the Indian-American is well known among South Asians for her tireless work to uplift the lot of restaurant workers, especially since September 11, 2001.
The Harvard-educated lawyer co-founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) to help those who worked at the Windows on the World, a restaurant on the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Ms Jayaraman fights for the workers of many city restaurants, including some prominent ones. She played a major role in getting back wages for workers amounting to more than half a million dollars. She receives not only bouquets but also brickbats for her staunch pro-labour stance.
Receiving hate mail is the ''worst part'', she said, adding, ''I sometimes feel threatened. But I can take the potshots if it helps us to advance.'' ROC-NY is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to fighting labour law violations in the city's restaurant industry. Jayaraman's passion was shaped by the struggles of her immigrant parents and her Hispanic high school friends in Los Angeles, where she grew up speaking both English and Spanish.
Fekkak Mamdouh, an office holder of the ROC, was full of praise for Ms Jayaraman, who is now in her early 30s. ''Saru is a visionary. She will make it happen.'' According to the weekly, 500 prospective people had been assessed for their achievements before the 40 honorees were chosen. Criteria for the selection were professional success, community service and participation in trade groups.