For Immediate Release: October 8, 2014

Contact: Anna Zuccaro, anna@fitzgibbonmedia.com, (914) 523-9145
Tim Rusch, tim@fitzgibbonmedia.com, (917) 399-0236

New Report: $15 An Hour Living Wage for Darden Employees Would Cost Company A Dime for Every $5 in Sales

Days Before Darden’s Annual Shareholders Meeting, Darden Employees to Hold “Dignity at Darden” Actions in New York City and Chicago

Find the report here: http://rocunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BRIEF_Darden-At-the-Drop-of-a-Dime.pdf

Today, ROC United published Darden: At The Drop of A Dime, an analysis revealing that it would cost the restaurant company just 10 cents per $5 in sales over a five year phase-in to raise wages for all Darden employees to a living wage of $15 per hour. This is the equivalent of redirecting just an additional 2% of sales toward their workforce.

Darden currently pays 20% of its 150,000 employees the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Darden: At The Drop of A Dime comes as more than 7,000 people, including more than 5,600 Darden employees, have signed on to the petition, “Darden: We Want A Seat at the Table,” requesting that the leadership of Darden and Starboard Value listen to their concerns for the restaurant’s future.

Starboard, a major shareholder in Darden Restaurants Inc., recently proposed proposed several labor cost cuts to Olive Garden, including laying off up to 1,600 employees, increasing part-time scheduling, and passing more work onto subminimum wage employees.

If Darden passed the entire cost of the wage increase to customers, the menu price increase would be negligible. For example, the cost of Olive Garden’s Tortellini al Forno would increase by 10 cents, Longhorn Steakhouse’s Spicy Chicken Bites would increase by 10 cents. In fact, the average check at Olive Garden would increase from its current $16.75 to $17.10.

Darden Restaurants Inc., parent company to Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Yard House, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V’s, is the largest full-service restaurant company in the world.  It has faced increasing negative media attention as Starboard Value, an activist hedge fund and shareholder, is angling to take complete control over Darden’s board. Starboard recently proposed several labor cost cuts to flagship brand, Olive Garden, including laying off up to 1,600 employees, increasing part-time scheduling, and passing more work onto subminimum-wage employees.

Due to pressure from Starboard and shareholders, Darden’s CEO, Clarence Otis,  and two top executive staff are set to resign with a severance package worth an estimated $65 million. Otis alone will receive more than $23,000 in cash severance alone every week for two years after his departure from the company. Meaning that Otis, after no longer being employed by Darden, will still get paid more every week than the typical line-cook, dishwasher, or server makes in an entire year.

Find the report here: http://rocunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BRIEF_Darden-At-the-Drop-of-a-Dime.pdf

Additional resources:

http://www.corp-research.org/darden

http://www.ips-dc.org/dardens-golden-goodbyes

http://rocunited.org/dardens-decision-which-future-for-olive-garden-red-lobster-and-capital-grille/

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Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate, 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 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.