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The Restaurant Association of Maryland e-mailed a release this afternoon cooing over its victory in the Maryland General Assembly, where the House Economic Matters Committee narrowly defeated, for the third straight year, a bill that would have given employees who work four consecutive hours a 15-minute break. It would have also given them a 30-minute break for six consecutive hours worked.

Allow Y&H to repeat that with emphasis: The committee killed a proposal to give workers a 15-minute break every four hours and a 30-minute break every six hours.

The nerve of these workers! Next thing you know, they’ll want weekends off. Or better pay. Or the ability to breathe air.

According to its release, the restaurant association opposed the bill with these forceful arguments:

[T]he Association argues that the legislation would interfere with a restaurant’s ability to maintain the best possible customer service, which remains the most critical aspect for the hospitality industry. The Restaurant Association of Maryland also predicted a significant increase in labor costs for businesses that would be forced to hire additional staff to cover for those taking the mandatory breaks.

The release also included this doozy of a quote:

Frederick Ledo Pizza franchisee, Diana Mahoney, says it would be impossible for a restaurant server to take a mandatory shift break during dinner hours. “How would you like to be in the middle of your dinner, look around for your waiter and be told by the manager that he or she is on a break,” Mahoney said.

I’m sorry, but this is not Stalinist Russia. Workers, particularly restaurant employees who are on their feet for an entire shift, could use a little mandated break time. I’m not buying the money or the shift coverage arguments, either. Between tip-reliant wages and pool coverage on the dining room floor, both issues are non-starters. But even assuming that a new law would have added some costs to an owner’s bottom line, it would have been worth it.

Why? Because, let’s repeat, workers deserve a 15-minute break during a four-hour shift.

How many breaks have you taken in the past four hours? How many times have you checked Facebook? Read your e-mails? Played an online game? Walked down the street to get a latte?

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives