On Wednesday, April 15th — as millions join the #FightFor15 to go on strike for a living wage — the National Restaurant Association will be at the Capitol for their annual lobby day to tell our elected officials that despite the restaurant industry’s record-breaking profits and skyrocketing CEO salaries, corporations can’t afford to pay workers a fair wage.
For too long, Fortune 500 restaurant companies like Olive Garden, Applebee’s, and Crackerbarrel have been getting away with paying employees so little that, despite working full-time, their employees still require public support programs like SNAP to get by.
Our report, “Picking Up the NRA’s Tab: The Public Cost of Low Wages in the Full-Service Restaurant Industry,” shows that nearly half of full-service restaurant workers are enrolled in public support programs, costing taxpayers $9.4 billion a year. In fact, most of the country’s lowest paying jobs are in the full-service restaurant industry, and the lowest wage in the country is the federal tipped minimum wage – it’s been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991, and remains lower than the regular minimum wage in 43 states.
How have our elected officials let the most profitable restaurants in the country exploit crucial public support programs as part of their business strategy?
With annual revenues of over $91 million, 750 staff, and nearly 40 congressional lobbyists, the National Restaurant Association is one of the most powerful business lobbies in Congress and state legislatures. Its members are Fortune 500 restaurant corporations including full-service giants Olive Garden parent company Darden, DineEquity, Brinker International, Bloomin’ Brands, Cracker Barrell as well as fast-food companies like McDonald’s, YUM! Brands, and more.
The NRA’s legislative agenda centers on opposing policies that improve working conditions and public health such as paid sick days, nutritional menu labeling, and regulation of sodium, trans fats, and sugars. Taking cues from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the NRA has lobbied successfully to pass legislation that bans the public from getting to vote on paid sick days, stripping states of their right to enact nutrition labeling requirements, and obstructs the advancement of women’s equality by opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act.
That’s why on Wednesday April 15th ROC United will be in D.C. to counter the Other NRA’s efforts and tell our elected officials to stop taking the National Restaurant Association’s corporate cash.
We will be joined by RAISE members (model restaurant employers who champion living wages and worker-friendly policies), as well as members of the growing #StopTheOtherNRA coalition, including Change to Win, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Food and Water Watch, and others.
It’s clear that the NRA is on the wrong side of history: millions of restaurant workers will strike tomorrow, the public overwhelmingly supports raising the minimum wage and worker-friendly policies (including eliminating the unfair two-tiered wage system in favor of one fair wage), and restaurants across the country, including members of RAISE, are steadily rolling out living-wage business models.