As many of you know, September 11th, 2011 marks not only the tenth anniversary of the terrible tragedy at the World Trade Center in New York, but also the tenth anniversary of our founding. On that day, 73 low-wage restaurant workers lost their lives at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Many of the survivors from that restaurant, including Fekkak Mamdouh, a waiter, came together with me to launch the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in the months following the tragedy. What began as a much-needed service for the thousands of displaced restaurant workers in New York has grown rapidly into a national movement for restaurant workers seeking an improved restaurant industry for all stakeholders – workers, consumers and employers.
In honor of the tenth anniversary of our founding, we are launching a new, interactive website that allows all of these stakeholders – workers, employers, and consumers – to join us in the movement for a just, safe and healthy restaurant industry. As you may know, the minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers has been frozen at $2.13 for more than twenty years. As a result, more than half of all restaurant workers live below the poverty line. Waiters and waitresses have three times the poverty rate of the rest of the American workforce, and kitchen workers fare even worse. This is not healthy for anyone; too many of our members are homeless or live on food stamps – unable to support their families, take a day off from work when they are sick, or even purchase food, even though they are food service workers! The situation is particularly bad for workers of color, who are concentrated in the industry’s worst jobs and earn the lowest wages, and who also too often are not able to move up the ladder to better jobs in the industry. See our reports for more information on these issues (hyperlink to our reports).
Visitors to our website will be able to write to their federal representatives to let them know that $2.13 is not acceptable as a minimum wage for tipped workers, and that all restaurant workers need paid sick days. They will also be able to sign up as online restaurant worker members and online consumer members. They will also be able to join a community of workers, employers and consumers who are sharing information through our National Diners’ Guide and online community on how restaurants around the country fare on the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and internal promotions policies.