Media Advisory for: March 19, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720 352 6153

THURSDAY — Rhode Island Labor House Committee Holds Public Hearing on Possible Min Wage Increase From $2.89 to $9.00

‘One Fair Wage’ Coalition Spearheaded by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United Pushes a Raise for 22,000 Tipped Workers, Mostly Women

Providence , RI — Just weeks after New York Governor Cuomo announced a momentous 50% increase to New York State’s tipped minimum wage, raising it from $5.00 to $7.50 per hour by the end of this year, Rhode Island’s House Labor Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday March 19th about a bill to raise the subminimum wage of $2.89 — the lowest tipped minimum wage in all of New England — to match the state’s full minimum wage, currently $9.00 per hour.

Rhode Island’s tipped workers are overwhelmingly women- about 68.6%.  The vast majority work in the restaurant industry and are nearly twice as likely as other RI workers to live in poverty. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has targeted the restaurant industry as the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges with five-times the rate of any other workforce. According to a recent national survey, 90% of female tipped workers report experiencing sexual harassment on the job.

WHAT: Press conference on ‘One Fair Wage,’ improving economic and social well-being for women and tipped workers throughout RI

WHEN: Thursday, March 19th at 3:00PM followed by H 5364 hearing beginning at 3:30

WHERE:  House Lounge, RI Statehouse, 82 Smith Street, Providence RI 02903

WHO: Meg Fosque (National Policy Director ROC United), Maureen Martin (Director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and Secretary Treasurer of RI AFL-CIO), Jim Vincent (Chapter President NAACP, Providence), Gayle Goldin (State Senator District 3, Providence), Theresa Tanzi (State Representative District 15, Cranston), Andy Posner (CEO Capital Good Fund),  Shandi Hanna (RI-NOW and the Women’s Fund), Marty Collins (Jewish Alliance), and current tipped workers

“No one can live on $2.89 an hour,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder/co-director of ROC United. “After years of work led by ROC, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of activity to get rid of the lower minimum wage for tipped workers entirely. Poverty wages, rampant sexual harassment, and wage theft are all endemic to a system that permits employers to pay tipped workers a subminimum wage. The public, electeds, and even restaurant owners understand that and want to change how tipped workers are paid.”

In addition to New York raising its tipped minimum wage, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maryland have introduced bills this year that would increase the lower, tipped minimum wage to match the full minimum wage, making March, notably Women’s History Month, poised for an unprecedented amount of activity specifically on raising wages for tipped workers.

Although the federal wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 an hour for 24 years, seven states, including Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, and Nevada have already eliminated the lower, tipped minimum wage.

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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 worker-members across 26 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.

The One Fair Wage Coalition includes RI-AFLCIO, Coalition of Labor Union Women, RI NOW and the Women’s Fund, Planned Parenthood of RI, RI JWJ, Working RI, NAACP Providence Chapter, Brown Student Labor Alliance, Fuerza Laboral, SEIU BJ, USAWRI, Bell St. Chapel, NEARI, Farm Fresh RI, HERE, Economic Progress Institute and more.

ROC United expanded to Rhode Island this fall hiring Rhode Island-native and seasoned community and labor organizer, Mike Araujo, to spearhead its One Fair Wage campaign in the state.