Author Archives: ROC United

A Tip for the Trumps: Food worker schools Donald and Eric about sexual harassment

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments this week regarding sexual harassment reminded me of my 11 years working in the restaurant industry.

I used to work at a restaurant in Brooklyn, where I was the owner’s “favorite waitress.” We had this one regular who’d say some crazy things every now and then, but I’d always shrug it off.

One day, while I was preparing his usual cup of coffee, he said, “Hey, little black girl, you got enough milk in those jugs for my coffee?” I was stunned and embarrassed. I forced a smile, gave him his coffee, and went straight to my manager.

“Oh it’s no big deal,” he replied. “He’s kidding!”

Read the rest at the New York Daily News.

Democratic Platform Draft Calls for $15 Minimum for All, Elimination of Tipped Wage

June 26, 2016

Contact: Tim Rusch, 917-399-0236

Democratic Platform Draft Calls for $15 Minimum for All, Elimination of Tipped Wage
Democratic Platform’s Wage Proposal Would Bring Fair Base Wage to Millions, Improve Lives of Workers in Restaurant Industry
New York, NY — On Saturday afternoon, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee issued a draft of the policy positions Sec. Clinton will be running on this November. As cited in a statement by Clinton campaign senior policy advisor Maya Harris, it “contains ambitious, progressive principles on wages, stating that working people should earn at least $15 an hour, citing New York’s minimum wage law and calling for raising and indexing the federal minimum wage. It also calls for the elimination of the ‘tipped’ wage and for the right of workers to form or join a union.”
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), a national leader on efforts to establish “One Fair Wage” and eliminate the tipped minimum wage, hails this as a victory:
“Establishing a $15 base wage for all workers and eliminating the tipped minimum is a major step toward correcting decades of injustice and improving the lives of millions of fellow Americans — especially women and people of color. The restaurant industry, in particular, has lagged way behind in wages: the federal tipped minimum has remained $2.13 for 25 years, and nearly half of tipped workers live near the poverty line. As a result of having to work for tips with no fair base wage, restaurant workers have to endure all kinds of sexual harassment from both customers and staff: 90% have reported experiencing sexual harassment on the job, according to our research. The separate tipped minimum wage also has created a ‘two-tier’ system that has placed an enormous burden on the restaurant business.
“Secretary Clinton pledged her support for eliminating the tipped minimum wage during a visit to ROC’s COLORS restaurant a few months ago, and we thank her, and Senator Sanders who has been an ardent supporter of One Fair Wage, and other members of the platform committee for working to bring a fair base wage to low-wage workers across the U.S.”
Tipped Wage Facts (view research here):
–The US is the only industrialized nation where tipped workers depend on tips for a majority of their income.
–With over 11 million employees, 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)
–90% of restaurant workers have been sexually harassed on the job; Absent a stable base wage, tipped workers are forced to tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers on whose tips they depend to feed their families, and from co-workers and management who often influence shifts and hours
–Nearly 70% of restaurant workers are women
–53% of tipped workers are people of color
–Half of restaurant workers live at or near the poverty line
–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


About Restaurant Opportunities Centers United -

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.

Read more about Saru Jayaraman’s new book Forked: A New Standard for American Dining at

ROC-DC Senior Campaign Organizer

June 2016
We are looking for a Senior Organizer who will organize workers, employers and consumers in Washington, DC.


In addition to the above listed job duties and responsibilities, there are conditions and requirements which are essential for anyone occupying the post.

  • Deep commitment to a vision of racial, gender and economic justice and to building progressive power.
  • You have a minimum of 3 years successful organizing experience with a base building organization
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and access to an operating car with insurance
  • Strong written and verbal skills, and ability to listen.
  • Ability to work under pressure.
  • Willingness to travel and work flexible hours required.
  • Commitment to building progressive political power.
  • Ability to work independently: Self-motivated
  • Preferred: basic computer skills (word processing, spreadsheet & database, electronic communication, social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook)
  • Commitment to building progressive power.
  • Spanish fluency a plus.


  1. Staff/Leadership Development
  • Recruit worker members and build their leadership through ROC’s job training institute, the COLORS Hospitality Opportunities for Workers (CHOW) Institute
  • Recruit employer members and build their leadership through RAISE, ROC’s national restaurant association
  • Build dues paying membership
  • Work with ROC’s leaders, workers, restaurant owners and consumers to build skills and increase participation in ROC’s campaign
  • Support DC leadership team to do house visits, general recruitment, turnout calls, power analysis, develop strategic tactics to move campaigns forward, and get earned media etc.
  • Work with leadership/allies sharpen the racial and gender justice analysis and move key messages into campaign work.
  1. Campaign Development/Field Work
  • Participate in campaign planning to move decision makers to support One Fair Wage
  • Support DC leadership in implementing turnout and recruitment plans for events
  • Participate in research activities as needed
  1. Affiliate Institution Building
  • Work with ROC United Operations & Finance Director, DC Campaign Manager, and DC Affiliate Director to launch events in COLORS DC space, including consumer membership-building events and campaign events

Working Conditions:

Organizers are required to work long and irregular hours including work on weekends and on holidays as necessary. The work of an organizer necessitates flexibility as demands and priorities for a particular campaign or the overall organization shift. It is expected that organizers be available during the times that workers in their assigned area are available at their work site, home or other locale. You may be required to travel extensively.


  • There will be an evaluation after the first month and then at the three and at a minimum an annual review will be done.


  • Starting pay for Senior Organizer is based on experience
  • Generous benefits, including health and dental coverage, 401(k) plan, paid vacation, personal days, and holidays.


Please send cover letter and resume detailing your qualifications to Please place the title of the position in the subject line of your email.

Immigrants, women, and people of color encouraged to apply. Restaurant Industry experience a plus.

Behind the Kitchen Door: The Promise of Opportunity in the San Francisco and Oakland Bay Area Restaurant Industry

In June 2016, ROC-The Bay released findings from one of the largest studies to date on the Bay Area’s restaurant workforce. “Behind the Kitchen Door: The Promise of Opportunity in the San Francisco and Oakland Bay Area Restaurant Industry” draws on 525 worker surveys, 41 structured interviews with restaurant workers, and 20 structured interviews with employers, along with other industry and government data. The report details a range of problems with restaurant working conditions related to the availability of benefits, hiring and promotion practices, workplace discrimination, and job-specific training opportunities.

Occupational segregation across the Bay Area is of particular concern, impacting the wages workers are able to earn. Workers of color experience a $6.12 wage disparity compared to white workers, and women experience a $3.34 wage disparity compared to men in fine dining occupations. This race pay gap is the largest ROC United has found around the country.

Key findings include:

  • The Bay Area’s restaurant industry is not a level playing field for people of color. White workers are more likely to work in higher-paying, Front-of-the-House positions, like bartenders and servers. Over half of all bartenders are white, despite being less than a quarter of the restaurant workforce overall. Additionally, workers of color are less likely to receive a raise or promotion than their white counterparts.

  • The same goes for women. Although they make up the vast majority of servers and bartenders, including servers in fine dining, they are dramatically underrepresented among bartenders in fine dining. Women surveyed made up 67% of all full service restaurant servers, and 84% of servers in fine dining, but only 41% of full service and 30% of fine dining bartending staff.

  • Wage violations are rampant. While service charges and tip pools that included Back-of-the-House workers helped balance income disparities between the Front and Back-of-the-House, they also created the potential for abuse as some employers used service charges to compensate supervisors, managers, owners, or to meet other business expenses. Additionally, workers expressed great concern over their ability to control their tips; a whopping 14% of respondents reported that management takes a share of gratuities earned on the job.

  • Exorbitant rent prices and gentrification are also of great concern. Restaurant workers in the Bay Area are paying on average $689 per month in rent, and must commute significant distances from lower-income areas with more affordable rents and sharing housing costs by living with more people. The average restaurant worker in the Bay Area lives in an apartment or home with 4 total residents, and 78.7% of restaurant workers do not work and live in the same city.

  • Many Bay Area employers are taking the High Road and offer living wages, access to benefits, training and advancement. Accordingly, they reported low employee turnover and high productivity as a result of living wages and access to benefits. However, some Bay Area employers lack formalized hiring, training, and promotion practices, and as a result, have reinforced occupational segregation in the restaurant industry.

  • Fair wages and benefits are still too often hard to come by. 52% of respondents report not having any form of health insurance coverage Additionally, twenty percent report having gone to the emergency room without being able to pay in the past year, nearly twice the rate we found in Seattle. Also, despite promising steps to raise wages for low-wage restaurant workers, 20% reported earning poverty wages.

  • Scheduling is anything but predictable. 26% of tipped restaurant workers experience frequent changes in their schedule, and an additional 50% of tipped workers sometimes experience changes in their schedule, compared to 16% and 43% of restaurant workers that do not receive tips. The majority of tipped workers are effectively expected to be on-call by their employers.

  • Workers are not receiving the raises and/or training they deserve. 73% of restaurant workers did not receive a raise in the last year, 22% reported they were passed over for a promotion, raise, or given worse shifts, 57% did not move up in position from their last restaurant job to their current one, and 54% do not receive ongoing job training.

  • Health and safety hazards abound. 91% of workers we spoke with have worked when their restaurant was understaffed. 28.8% reported doing something that put their own safety at risk. 29.3% have done something due to time pressure that might have harmed the health and safety of customers.

Read the full report.

Tipped Over: Employer Liability in a Two-Tiered Wage State

“Tipped Over: Employer Liability in a Two-Tiered Wage State,” examines how rules necessary to regulate the subminimum wage system, including the so-called ‘80-20 Rule,’ create tremendous liabilities for both employers and employees in New York State.

The report underscores that a ‘one fair wage’ system, in which employers pay all workers, including tipped workers, a full fair minimum wage, is necessary to ensure workers are properly paid, and employers are not placed at risk of unnecessary liability.

The study — based on interviews with 40 restaurateurs from New York and nationwide, as well as workers and attorneys —  highlights the significant monitoring and liability incurred by employers in order to ensure compliance with the necessary regulations associated with paying a subminimum wage, as well the increasing gap between a growing minimum wage and a decreasing subminimum wage for tipped workers. This pairing incentivizes employers to increase the workload of tipped workers by shifting tasks away from non-tipped workers. For many employers, tipped workers are now the considerably ‘cheaper’ workers whose wages did not increase. As a result, the number of class action lawsuits filed by workers with regard to violations of regulations associated with the subminimum wage has also increased. “Tipped Over” documents restaurant employers’ experiences of costly liability arising from the complicated rules surrounding paying tipped workers a lower minimum wage.

Key findings include:

  • New York employers face an extensive set of regulations with which they must comply, including (1) strict notification requirements of tip sharing procedures (“tip pools”) that must be signed by each tipped employee; (2) strict prohibitions on including non-tipped employees in a tip pool; (3) strict requirements that tips actually make up the difference between the minimum and subminimum wage each week); and (4) strict requirements that not more than two hours, or 20 percent, of any shift, whichever is less, is spent in performing non-tipped work, or work that is not related to direct service (the ‘80-20 Rule’).
  • Time and money spent monitoring compliance with the above regulations tied to the subminimum wage, such as the ‘80-20 Rule’, prevents employers from spending time training and even hiring new staff.
  • Employers face a tradeoff when concentrating on lawsuits or on hiring: while small employers are better equipped to handle ‘80-20’ by limiting the number of service staff, liability prevents them from growing. Large employers are particularly concerned with the burden of liability, at times dissuading them from making additional hires.
  • A survey of federal lawsuits filed in the Southern District of New York, covering the New York City (NYC) area, and in the Central District of California, covering the Los Angeles (LA) area, show that restaurant lawsuits made up approximately 23 percent of the total in the NYC area in a state with a two-tiered wage system, while making up only 8 percent of the total in the LA area in a state with no two-tiered wage system.

Download the full report here.

Contact: Tim Rusch,, 917.399.0236

Washington D.C. City Council Votes Against One Fair Wage,  Approves Compromised Wage Deal on the Backs of Tipped Workers

D.C. City Council Approves Mayor Bowser’s $15 Wage Proposal, Which Leaves Nearly 29,000 of the District’s Tipped Workers Behind

Poll: 78 percent of D.C. voters would support a ballot initiative to fix the omission of tipped workers from the full $15 minimum wage

The following is a statement from Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United: 

Washington, D.C. – “Today, the Washington D.C. City Council voted against one fair wage for the District’s tipped workers when it raised the non-tipped minimum to $15. While this is a positive step for many workers in the area, this deal was made on the backs of over 29,000 hard working women and men, and many people of color, in the restaurant industry. These workers experience poverty at nearly twice the rate of other D.C. workers. Nine out of ten of D.C.’s tipped restaurant workers experience some kind of sexual harassment on the job because of their subminimum wage status. This wage deal, carved in backrooms with the help of the National Restaurant Association, is a disgrace for Washington D.C.  

“We oppose any deal or compromise that excludes tipped workers from a full $15 minimum wage. As reported in a new pollthe people of DC support a ballot initiative to ensure that tipped workers are paid the full $15 minimum wage. We’re continuing to gather signatures and will fight for the District’s tipped workers until we have achieved one fair minimum wage for all workers.”

Note to Journalists:
Many prominent local employers—including Florida Avenue Grill owner, Imar Hutchins, and Busboys and Poets owner, Andy Shallal—have come out publicly for One Fair Wage. Hutchins said, “The reason why I support minimum wage legislation with elimination of the tipped minimum wage is that it is easier if it is legislated because then it is something that [the whole industry] has to deal with together.”

Read the report, “The Case for Eliminating the Tipped Minimum Wage in Washington, D.C.” can be found  here

Additionally, 25 organizations have signed onto a letter urging Mayor Bowser and D.C. legislatures to establish one fair wage for the city’s tipped workers. That letter can be found HERE.


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 to 18,000 worker-members across over 15 states, in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $10 million in stolen tips and wages.