FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2016

Contact:

Tim Rusch, ruschtk@gmail.com 917-399-0236
Dallas Donnell, dallas@rocunited.org, 215-870-7076

 

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Visits Worker-Owned Restaurant in New York City, Endorses Campaign to Eliminate Tipped Subminimum Wage

On eve of NY Primary, Sec. Clinton meets ROC United members to learn about the hardships of living off tips

Photos from the event are available at http://rocunited.org/clinton-colors-nyc/

Video of Sec. Clinton’s visit is available here

New York, NY — Tuesday evening, restaurant workers advocating to raise the subminimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage in New York State and nationwide were visited by Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who stopped by COLORS, a Manhattan restaurant owned and operated by a restaurant-worker organization.

Members of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United — a national organization of restaurant workers, employers, and consumers aiming to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s 11 million restaurant workers — hosted Secretary Clinton on the eve before the New York State Primary to tell her about the One Fair Wage campaign.  After viewing a demonstration by a graduate of ROC’s worker training program and ordering from the 100% gluten-free menu, Sec. Clinton talked with ROC restaurant-worker members about their efforts to eliminate the injustice of the two-tiered wage system.

The federal tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 per hour for the past 25 years. As a result, tipped workers — largely women and people of color — face disproportionate rates of poverty, financial insecurity, discrimination, and sexual harassment. In New York, while legislators just passed a $15 minimum wage bill, tipped workers saw a more modest increase that fell short of eliminating the antiquated system of a subminimum wage.

During her visit to COLORS, Sec. Clinton heard testimonials from tipped workers about the struggles they face as a result of living off tips. Clinton, who has previously expressed her support for the One Fair Wage campaign, was in agreement that tipped workers nationwide deserve a living wage.

As a result of hearing the workers’ stories, Sec.  Clinton commented, “It makes me so grateful and proud to see what you’re doing…I keep trying to raise the tipped wage as an issue because I don’t think most Americans even know about the tipped wage. When people see (the) One Fair Wage (campaign) they know that we need to abolish the tipped wage.”

“We know that if both of the Democratic presidential candidates understand what it means to live off tips and are with us on One Fair Wage, then this issue is emblematic of what the country is up against at this moment,” commented Saru Jayaraman, co-director of ROC United. “Working people — especially the mostly women tipped workers who are paid $2.13 an hour — are struggling to make ends meet, and America wants this to change no matter who ends up in office.”

Gabrielle Hatcher, a server for seven years in New York, explained, “Living off tips has led to constant economic instability. We rely on customers to pay our wages through tips, and because of that, I’ve had people offer money for my phone number or to go on a date. The subminimum wage does not allow us to work and live in dignity.”

Victoria Bruton of Philadelphia, who has worked as a server for two decades and is a mother of two adult daughters who also work in the restaurant industry, related that she has earned the Pennsylvania subminimum wage for tipped workers of $2.83 per hour since 1991 and commented, “I’ve been forced to turn to food stamps and other forms of public assistance to survive.”

Bartender Woong Chang of Washington D.C. said, “As restaurant workers, too often we’re the ones being sliced and diced on the political menu when it comes to a debate about our wages. It was great to have a seat at the table for once — and have Secretary Clinton come to our table at COLORS and listen to our vision of a restaurant industry that treats us as the professionals that we are.”

Both Democratic Presidential contenders Sec. Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders have expressed support for eliminating the separate, lower tipped minimum wage — a testament to the growing nationwide movement for fair wages and working conditions for tipped workers. Their positions align with that of the 200 members of the national employer association RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment). Nearly 40 RAISE leaders convened in Washington DC last week to urge federal legislators to eliminate the tipped minimum wage once and for all. They were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison, a vocal supporter of the One Fair Wage campaign, who along with Sen. Sanders, introduced legislation in Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15, including for tipped workers.

The $2.13 per hour subminimum wage has also been condemned by over 35 national advocacy and research groups — including CREDO, SEIU, and the Working Families Party — who recently signed a letter demanding the elimination of the tipped minimum wage. Also, over 2,100 ROC United members that sent letters to their legislators in the past month. Seven states — including California and the entire west coast — have already eliminated the subminimum wage, and they’ve watched their restaurant industries flourish. In fact, California recently took a step further, increasing wages for all workers, including tipped employees, to $15 per hour.

Through the One Fair Wage campaign, restaurant workers, owners, consumers, and allies are working to advance local and state efforts — including in New York state and Washington, D.C. — to raise the regular minimum wage and phase out the two-tiered wage system, ensuring One Fair (minimum) Wage for all workers.

Tipped Wage Facts:

–The US is the only industrialized nation where tipped workers depend on tips for a majority of their income.

–The restaurant industry is one of the largest growing industries in the nation, and the largest employer of minimum wage workers (1 in 12 Americans)

–Half of restaurant workers live at or near the poverty line

–Nearly 70% of restaurant workers are women

–53% of tipped workers are people of color

–90% of restaurant workers have been sexually harassed on the job

–The last time the Federal tipped minimum wage was raised was in 1991

–1 in 7 tipped workers relies on food stamps to feed themselves and their families

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About Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – www.rocunited.org

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 18,000 worker-members, 200 restaurant employer members, and several thousand consumer members in 15 states in the U.S., winning 15 worker-led campaigns, recovering $10 million in stolen tips and wages.

About RAISE – www.raiserestaurants.org

RAISE is an association of 200 restaurant industry leaders committed to taking the “high road” to profitability, including livable wages for all workers, access to affordable health care, safe and healthy workplaces, environmental sustainability, and a level playing field for restaurant businesses.  Through RAISE, restaurant owners share sustainable business models that champion “high road” employer practices as recipes for success, not impediments to profitability. Members of RAISE range from small independent businesses, to well-known businesses like Zingerman’s, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.