STATEMENT
For Immediate Release: July 22, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720 352 6153

The following statement should be attributed to Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) in response to today’s recommendation from the New York State Wage Board to increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour.

“Today’s announcement from the New York wage board calling for a $15 minimum wage for New York’s fast-food workers is a crucial step forward in the fight for fair pay and a major indictment of the inadequacy of wages throughout the restaurant industry.

“Governor Cuomo and the New York Wage Board’s leadership in responding to the outcry of restaurant workers across the country should serve as an example of the bold action that elected officials can and should take to prioritize the needs of the families they represent. Quite simply, more needs to be done to reign in the unsustainable and broken business model of one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the country.

“Nearly half of fast-food and full-service restaurant workers require public assistance to make ends meet and support their families. This amounts to corporations exploiting crucial public assistance programs as part of their business plan and outsourcing the cost of paying their employees to taxpayers, while restaurant CEOs and corporate executives make more in a day than their front-line workers could make in a year. Even more troubling is the full-service restaurant industry’s two-tiered wage system which subjects millions of tipped restaurant workers to a sub-minimum wage, forcing millions — mostly women — to live off the generosity of customers for the bulk of their take-home pay. As a result, servers use food stamps at double the rate of the general workforce, are three-times as likely to live in poverty, and endure sexual harassment with staggering frequency on the job.

“This is not the first time the New York Wage Board has taken action to correct the restaurant industry’s abysmal pay. A similar process unfolded months ago; due to the moving testimony of many of New York’s tipped workers and overwhelming data, the Wage Board called for an historic increase to the tipped minimum wage — raising it from $5 to $7.50 an hour by the end of this year. We hope today’s victory for fast-food workers emboldens New York’s electeds to move swiftly on ensuring one, fair base wage for all restaurant workers by phasing out the unfair two-tiered wage system.”

###

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 close to 14,000 worker-members across over 30 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.