For Immediate Release: March 20, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720-352-6153

Rhode Island Tipped Workers Call on Electeds to Pass ‘One Fair Wage’  Bill: “No one can survive off $2.89”

House Bill 5364 Would Raise $2.89 Tipped Minimum Wage to Full Minimum Wage of  $9.00 an Hour

Providence, RI — Today, the Rhode Island Labor House Committee held a public hearing on a possible minimum wage increase that would raise the state’s current tipped minimum from $2.89 an hour — the lowest in all of New England — to a full minimum wage of $9.00 an hour.

The bill, H 5364, co-sponsored by Rep. Aaron Regunberg, would raise wages for about 22,000 tipped workers, mostly women, for the first time in over 20 years.

“The sub-minimum wage is not a minimum wage, it’s a poverty wage,” said Kate Conroy, current tipped worker and ROC United member. “It’s time for the free labor subsidy for restaurants to end. Restaurant workers have bore the brunt of the worst that the industry has to offer, and it’s time for this to end. The corporate restaurant turnout today is telling of how nepotistic and hostile this industry can be. Their concern is not for workers or their families or even a just society; they’re strictly here to protect their ever growing bottom line. And that’s just wrong. No one can survive off $2.89.”

“Getting paid $2.89 an hour is a joke,” said Ricky Mercado, current server and ROC United member. “It’s a joke that we work so hard to put food on people’s tables, and this is what our employer thinks we’re worth. Even if the minimum wage was $5 an hour, that’s still absolutely nothing. Making the full minimum wage would mean that I could make ends meet.”

Nearly 70% of Rhode Island’s tipped workers are women; the vast majority work in the restaurant industry and are nearly twice as likely as other workers in the state to live in poverty.

Just weeks ago, New York State announced a 50% increase to its tipped minimum wage, raising it from $5.00 an hour to $7.50 by the end of this year. Additionally, there are five other states on the East Coast that are advancing legislation that would eliminate the lower, tipped minimum wage. Seven states across the country have completely eliminated their subminimum 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.