The American economic bubble expanded and collapsed on the backs of the hard-working and underpaid lower classes. In post-bubble America the workers will likely be more suspicious and assertive. This could be the case in Portland's restaurants as well — as suggested by a recent labor protest outside the Front Room. It was sad to hear allegations this summer that workers were being profoundly mistreated at the South Portland restaurant Great Wall — constrained to slum-dormitory conditions, paid illegal wages, and threatened with deportation if they complained. It is inspiring, however, that the workers managed to organize and protest despite these threats.
The last decade saw Portland become a terrific food town thanks to talent, hard work, and good fortune. If Portland's restaurant scene has achieved heights no one would have predicted, the next few years will likely bring some predictable complications. At the top of the bubble things can get pretty weird, and there will likely be many folks opening restaurants that they simply shouldn't. Anyone who does will confront an online community of food-obsessives who have sometimes gotten downright ugly this year — with personal attacks, off-kilter rants, and ill-advised opening-night reviews. In such an environment, and with so many great restaurants already established in our small city, it's a wonder anyone has the guts to open another. They will though. They always do. In the meantime, even if Portland's food scene has peaked, let's do our best to enjoy ourselves (and be fair to each other) on the way down.
Brian Duff can be reached at email@example.com.
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