With all of the organic and local items on menus, it has never been a better time to eat in our country. At the same time, this may be the worst time in a long time to be a restaurant worker. The wages of restaurant workers in Philadelphia have declined by 11% since 2003 and nationally, the tipped minimum wage hasn’t increased since 1991. Yesterday, five former workers from a popular Philadelphia sushi restaurant announced that they had reached a $40,000 settlement with their employer, showing a growing food worker movement a powerful example of how they can get organized and win.
This week we made restaurant industry and labor movement history!
In the face of unbelievable odds and powerful opposition by the National Restaurant Association, we won bipartisan support of tip protection legislation for tipped workers throughout the entire country. Congress, which has been notably divided and unable to pass legislation, came to an agreement that tips are the property of workers and codified that principle into law. This was not a matter of chance or the whims of politicians, but the result of sustained organizing and power of workers uniting.
When Trump’s Department of Labor (DOL), led by Secretary Acosta and pushed by the National Restaurant Association, proposed a rule that would have allowed employers who don’t take the tip penalty to keep their workers’ tips they were met with powerful opposition from ROC and allies. Throughout the country, hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers and allies came together and submitted over 400,000 comments, testified at Capitol Hill, and held actions at DOL and Restaurant Association offices throughout the country, including dropping a banner off the side of the US Department of Labor building in Washington DC that said “Trump Don’t Steal Our Tips!”.
As a result of this incredible mobilizing and public pressure, Secretary Acosta was forced to backtrack and speak out in favor of tip protection! In what was possibly his first pro-worker stance to date, Secretary Acosta sided with restaurant workers instead of the NRA.
Perhaps even more incredible, due to the outcry from workers and allies — Congress then came together and included an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that was incorporated into the Budget Bill. This amendment states that as a matter of Federal Law, tips belong to workers.
This victory demonstrates the power of organizing and that we can win, even in the Trump Era.
But we’re not done yet! Let’s keep this momentum going and win #1FairWage!
Only when we take a stand can we overcome the undue influence of corporate lobbyists like the National Restaurant Association. We’ve demonstrated we can win. Let’s keep the train moving!