March 26, 2014

Vice President Joe Biden Visits ROC United High Road Employer, Florida Avenue Grill, To Highlight Importance of Raising Tipped Wages

Washington, D.C. — Today, the staff and owner of the “oldest soul food” restaurant in the world, Florida Avenue Grill, was visited by Vice President Joe Biden. Already a High Road restaurant, Florida Avenue Grill starts non-tipped workers above the minimum wage with at least $9 an hour, offers paid sick days and vacation time to their staff. Today, Imar Hutchins, owner and operator, announced a raise for all tipped workers from $2.77 (D.C.’s current subminimum wage), to $3.77 an hour to take effect immediately.

“I support raising the tipped minimum wage, but believe legislation requiring all restaurants to raise their pay for tipped workers would make it easier for all of us to do so,” said Imar Hutchins. “Legislation would level the playing field. Right now, restaurant menu prices are artificially low because the consumer is making up the rest through paying the tip at the end of their meal. Higher menu prices won’t scare consumers away if we’re all required to raise pay for our tipped workers.”

Hutchins told Vice President Biden and the crowd, “We’re here today because of ROC United. I’m raising wages because of what I’ve learned from ROC and Saru Jayaraman’s book, Behind the Kitchen Door.”

As Biden entered the restaurant, he went straight for the waitstaff saying, “these are the people I really want to talk to” and criticized Congressional inaction on the tipped minimum wage, expressing frustration with the fact that it’s been $2.13 for more than 20 years.

Biden’s visit coincides with today’s report from the White House focusing on women and the need to raise the tipped minimum wage.

Find a picture of Biden with Hutchins here, Biden and waitstaff here.

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Co-founded by labor rights leader Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News) ROC United has grown to over 13,000 members across 26 cities in the US, winning 13 worker-led campaigns, totaling $7 million in stolen tips and wages.