For Immediate Release: March 9, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720-352-6153

No One Can Survive on $2.89 an Hour — All Rhode Islanders, Including 19,000 Tipped Workers, Deserve ‘One Fair Wage’

Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, Rhode Island State Representative Aaron Regunberg (co-sponsor of HB536), and RIAFL-CIO Call On Rhode Island Governor and Legislature to Raise Tipped Minimum Wage to Full Minimum Wage

Governor Raimondo’s announcement that she is committed to raising Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $10.10 and will review the wages of tipped workers means she is listening to the public — we’re ready for fair wages for all workers, including tipped workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. “Elected officials across the country are have introduced historic ‘One Fair Wage’ legislation that would eliminate the lower, tipped minimum wage, restaurant owners are steadily rolling out alternatives to the two-tiered wage system, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly supports paying tipped workers the full minimum wage.”

“At $2.89, Rhode Island has the lowest subminimum wage in all of New England,” said State Rep. Aaron Regunberg. “New York State just 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. There are five other states on the East Coast that are advancing legislation that would eliminate the lower, tipped minimum wage. And seven states across the country have completely eliminated their subminimum wage — all with thriving restaurant industries. House Bill 536, which I’ve co-sponsored, would do more than simply raise the wage for tipped workers, and instead make Rhode Island a ‘One Fair Wage’ state.”

“The One Fair Wage Coalition calls on the Governor and the Legislature to reverse the 20 year pattern of abandoning tipped workers and raise the subminimum wage this legislative session,” said Michael Araujo, Rhode Island Policy Organizer for ROC United. “The subminimum wage has been perpetuated only because of the power of the restaurant lobby, which is embodied in our state by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. That’s unacceptable, Rhode Islanders deserve one fair wage.”

“We at the RIAFL-CIO praise Governor Raimondo for her leadership,” said George Nee, President RIAFL-CIO. “We’re happy to know that she is willing to walk with us on the journey towards sustainable wages for all workers. The Governor’s willingness to direct the Department of Labor and Training on tipped wages is a praiseworthy first step.”

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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 RIAFLCIO, Planned Parenthood, The Women’s Fund, NOW RI, Coalition of Labor Women, NAACP, RIJWJ, Rhody Fresh, Economic Development Institute and more.