Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2014
Contact: maria [at] rocunited [dot] org

Women’s Rights Leaders Call for End of Tipped Minimum Wage at ROC Restaurant Launch Party
New York State’s Wage Board Will Decide Future of Tipped Minimum Wage in Coming Months

New York, NY — Last night, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United announced The High Road by COLORS partnership, a new restaurant venture with Rosanne Martino (General Manager of One if By Land, Two if By Sea) and Chef Colt Taylor that will extend ‘high road’ business practices of fair wages, paid sick days, benefits, and opportunities for internal advancements to its employees.

Terry O, Neill (President of National Organization for Women), Teresa Younger (CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women), and Magarida Jorge (Women’s Equality Center) are among those calling for an end of the tipped minimum wage.

“It should not matter what state, job, or gender you are to get a fair wage,” said Teresa Younger, CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women. “New York has the opportunity to set the standard. The current subminimum wage is an insult. That fact we have allowed to this insult to go on as long as it has is simply ridiculous.”

Due to last-minute pressure from the restaurant industry, New York State’s recent minimum wage increase  excluded tipped workers, which consist primarily of mainly restaurant workers, and mandated instead that the New York State Department of Labor use a “wage board” to determine whether tipped workers will get a raise; NYS’s current tipped minimum wage is $5 an hour. The wage board process is slated to begin in the coming the months with the appointment of its members.

ROC United, ROC-NY, workers, and allies are calling for NY to eliminate the tipped minimum wage — currently set at $5 an hour — and to implement one fair minimum wage.

Urgent reasons to eliminate the tipped minimum wage are below:

  • The median wage for NY’s tipped workers, including tips, is $8.75 an hour (or $18,200 k/year for a full-time, year-round employee).

  • Since they are forced to rely on customers rather than their employer for their income, women in the restaurant industry must often tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management, making the restaurant industry the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the country. Seven percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, but 37% of all sexual harassment claims to the EEOC come from the restaurant industry.

  • Nationally, servers use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce and are three-times as likely to live in poverty.

  • Seven states have already eliminated their subminimum wage and require employers to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage directly, with tips being in addition. Employment growth in these states is higher than the national average. [Find ROC’s report here: http://rocunited.org/recipeforsuccess/]

Find more information about The High Road by COLORS here: http://www.thehighroadnyc.com/

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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.