PRESS RELEASE for October 15, 2014
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria [at] rocunited [dot] org, 720-352-6153

Female Restaurant Workers Protest Industry’s Rampant Sexual Harassment and Demand One Fair Wage at
‘Not On The Menu’ Rally

Current restaurant workers and ROC members joined local elected officials and women’s rights leaders including Eve Ensler (V-Day, One Billion Rising), Marie Wilson (Co-founder of Ms. Foundation), Aleyamma Mathew (Ms. Foundation), Brad Lander (NYC City Council), Noreen Farrell (Equal Rights Advocates), Marisol Alcantara (West Harlem District Leader), Deborah Glick (New York State Assembly), Hollback!, National Organization for Women, and Saru Jayaraman (co-founder and co-director of ROC United) in fight for one fair wage!

Footage of the NYC rally:

New York, NY — Yesterday, dozens of restaurant workers, women’s rights activists, and supporters gathered for a rally calling for the elimination of the subminimum wage and requiring the restaurant industry to pay one, fair wage directly to their employees. Last week, a report released by ROC United and Forward Together, The Glass Floor, revealed that nearly all female restaurant workers — up to 90% — report experiencing some form of sexual harassment, with tipped workers being the most vulnerable.

“I was a restaurant worker over 30 years ago, and here’s the tragic story: absolutely nothing has changed,” said Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising. “The wage hasn’t changed, the sexual harassment hasn’t changed, the outfits I was forced to wear hasn’t changed, the abuse hasn’t changed. It is a shame that in 2014 that we don’t honor the work of women. We cannot end sexual violence against women unless we understand the role of economic violence — which is perpetuated by a subminimum wage for tipped, and overwhelmingly female, workers.”

Similar ‘Not On The Menu’ rallies and creative direct actions for One Fair Wage took place in several cities across the country, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and D.C.

“By letting the restaurant industry force women — who make up 70% of servers — to live off tips, one of the largest industries in the country demonstrates to women, many of whom find their 1st job in the industry, that their worth should somehow be linked to enduring forms of harassment and objectification,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of ROC United. “We will continue to protest sexual harassment in the restaurant industry and fight for livable wages until one fair wage is a reality.”

“Living off tips means the customer is more than always right, they’re in control of your wages,” said Ashley Ogogor, ROC-NY member and current restaurant worker. “Instead of feeling protected or that I have any rights, living off tips teaches you that you have to smile and deal with uncomfortable situations that come up with customers, and even co-workers and management, in order to get paid and keep your job. That’s why I’m part of ROC’s One Fair Wage campaign, no one should ever feel like harassment is ‘just part of the job.’”

Yesterday’s ‘Not On The Menu’ rally occurs in the midst of a series of public hearings held by the New York Wage Board, which is responsible for determining the future of NY state’s $5 subminimum wage. The next hearing is October 20th in New York City. New York’s absolute lowest paying jobs are tipped restaurant occupations, with more than half of the state’s 230,000 tipped workers working in restaurants. New York is one of 43 states with a subminimum wage for tipped workers. Nationally, tipped workers use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce and are three-times as likely to live in poverty.

“We will no longer tolerate that the price of a paycheck for women in the restaurant industry is getting groped, catcalled, or degraded,” said Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates. “Equal Rights Advocates stands with the brave women in this industry to end sexual harassment and a tipped minimum wage that forces too many to put up with it. Women can get legal help at 800-839-4ERA.”

The One Fair Wage campaign encourages women to share their #NotOnTheMenu stories on Twitter and/or at livingofftips.com.

“I am here to make a stand for the people who are afraid to talk about getting harassed because they think they are going to lose their jobs” said Nakima Jones, ROC-NY member and 13 year veteran of the restaurant industry. “And sometimes that happens – they talk and they lose their job.”

B-roll and/or stills of the NYC rally available upon request.

Find the report, “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry,” here: http://rocunited.org/new-report-the-glass-floor-sexual-harassment-in-the-restaurant-industry/

Find more details about One Fair Wage here: onefairwage.com/

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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.