STATEMENT
For Immediate Release: 7/2/2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720-352-6153

The following statement should be attributed to Fekkak Mamdouh, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United regarding the Obama administration’s proposed increase to the overtime threshold.

“It’s no secret that unscrupulous employers have been taking advantage of our archaic overtime regulations for too long, often assigning employees to “manager” status simply to avoid having to pay overtime. As is, any salaried employee who’s paid more than $455 a week — or $23,660 a year — can be called a “manager” and swiftly be made ineligible for overtime. For a family of four, that’s poverty-level status. President Obama’s proposed increase to the overtime threshold raising it to $50,440 in full-time earnings will help millions of workers across the country, especially in our largest and fastest growing economic sectors like the restaurant industry which currently boasts more than 11 million workers but is proliferating the absolute lowest paying jobs in the country.

“We applaud efforts by the administration to ensure fair pay for workers, but the importance of ensuring effective enforcement and the urgency of raising the minimum wage cannot be understated. The National Retail Federation, a business group, has already said that its members would probably respond by converting many salaried workers to hourly status — possibly subjecting them to unlivable minimum wages and costing them benefits.

“It’s disappointing, although not surprising, that the National Restaurant Association, the lobby for some of the biggest restaurant corporations in the country, touts itself as an “industry of opportunity” while ardently opposing the overdue changes to the overtime threshold saying it would “negatively impact the workforce” and make the industry “less appealing”. Restaurant workers — servers, bussers, dishwashers, cooks, hosts, bartenders — are the backbone of the incredibly profitable industry, but they rarely see the rewards of their hard work and increased productivity. With a poverty rate three-times as high than the general workforce, restaurant workers are often struggling to support their families. In fact, many restaurant CEOs and executives get paid more in a single day than a typical worker would stand to make in a year. The NRA’s anti-worker lobbying agenda has already severely negatively impacted the workforce while the industry’s rock-bottom wages are unappealing to both workers and restaurant-goers. However, the proposal would be a big step toward a more level-playing field as a growing number of restaurant employers champion “high road” practices like fair pay and paid sick days but are competing against massive corporations paying the legal rock-bottom wages. The restaurant industry’s success simply doesn’t have to come at the expense of fair pay and dignity for restaurant workers. We will continue to fight to improve wages and working conditions for all restaurant workers”.

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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 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.