FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2016
Contact: Eric Conrad, ROC-United
250+ Restaurant Workers and Advocates Demand DC Chamber End Opposition to One Fair $15 Wage
ROC members were joined by Jobs With Justice and supporters of DC for $15
Washington, D.C. – Today, over two hundred and fifty protesters delivered a letter to the DC Chamber of Commerce calling on the organization to stop opposing a minimum wage increase for working Washingtonians. The group was made up of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United members, workers from Jobs With Justice, and supporters of the DC for $15 campaign. Photos from the event are available here.
“The DC Chamber of Commerce is doing everything they can to subvert the democratic process because they know that the people want this ballot initiative,” said Saru Jayaraman, the co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “DC’s low wage earners—and tipped workers especially, who only make the subminimum wage of $2.77 an hour—deserve a raise. It’s a shame the Chamber will go this far to perpetuate wage inequality that Washingtonians already have to live with.”
Last summer, Harry Wingo, the then head of the DC Chamber of Commerce, sued the DC Board of Elections to block them from allowing a $15 minimum wage ballot initiative from moving forward. While the Attorney General, Board of Elections, and ultimately the judge presiding over the case found the issue to be a proper subject for a ballot measure, the initiative is still tied up in the courts. At the end of January, Judge Ross ruled in Mr. Wingo’s favor, citing his claim that the BOE has not been properly constituted since 2012. If his ruling stands, every election in DC since 2012 could be called into question.
Delvone Michael, Executive Director of DC Working Families and co-chair of the DC for $15 campaign, said “By supporting a lawsuit that threatens to overturn democracy in DC, the Chamber of Commerce has shown just how far they will go to keep wages down.” Adding that “DC voters overwhelming support a $15 minimum wage and we will not let powerful business interests, or others, block us from having our say. We will continue to fight and we will win.”
ROC-United was also joined by Jobs With Justice in their opposition to the Chamber’s efforts. JWJ held a concurrent action targeting the National Retail Federation for their role in opposing changes to stable scheduling.
“Even though 86 percent of D.C. voters support new rules that improve retail jobs, and even though our neighbors who work in retail here in the District say they desperately need more hours with stable schedules, the National Retail Federation is still lobbying behind the scenes to keep any change from happening,” said DC Jobs With Justice Executive Director Nikki Lewis. “We’re here today to tell them to stand down and to tell our city officials to stand on the side of Just Hours.”
DC for $15 is a broad and diverse coalition of working people, community organizations, faith leaders, labor unions, and small business owners who believe that hard work deserves fair pay and that the nation’s capital should not be the capital of inequality. It is co-chaired by DC Working Families and the Restaurant Opportunities Center DC.