Author Archives: ROC United

MUST WATCH: Thandie Newton in New One Fair Wage Video

Thandie Newton, star of HBO’s Westworld wants you to help take our power back!

Did you know the tipped minimum wage — as low as $2.13 in dozens of states — has its historical roots in slavery? In post-slavery America, tipping was viewed as a demeaning practice fit only for former slaves, whom business owners resented having to pay in the first place.

Nearly two hundred years later, that rationale — that it is acceptable for tipped workers to rely on customers rather than their employers for a living wage — continues to persist, thanks to the lobbying efforts of industry behemoths like the National Restaurant Association. Join ROC United and Thandie Newton in telling lawmakers: enough is enough!

The time has come for all of us to stand up, speak truth to power, and end this inhumane legacy of slavery once and for all. In the video below, screen star Thandie Newton explains the historical roots of the tipped subminimum wage and it’s connection to slavery:

The movement for One Fair Wage is heating up like never before, but we’ll get nowhere unless your legislators hear your voices!

Click here to watch this powerful video. Then take just 60 seconds to contact your legislators and urge them to stand against poverty wages and provide #1FairWage for all.

NIGHTCARE: The Growing Challenge for Parents on the Late Shift

NIGHTCARE: The Growing Challenge for Parents on the Late Shift is the most comprehensive examination to date of the childcare needs of America’s restaurant workers. Drawing from outreach and case management with over 2000 restaurant workers in New York over the past two years, as well as a previous ROC United report — “The Third Shift: Child Care Needs and Access for Working Mothers in Restaurants,” NIGHTCARE offers a vivid picture of the unique hardships faced by restaurant workers, specifically tipped workers striving to support a family on the separate, lower subminimum wage.

“NIGHTCARE: The Growing Challenge for Parents on the Late Shift” is available at:

ROC’s research demonstrates that, with the continued growth of the restaurant industry, an increasing number of low-wage workers must work in the evening or at night, and thus depend on childcare after regular business hours, otherwise known as “nightcare.” The tipped minimum wage — an abysmal $2.13 per hour at the federal level — exacerbates this problem by forcing tipped restaurant workers toward evening and weekend shifts where the earning potential for tips is highest. However, nightcare is often inaccessible for restaurant workers, either due to location or cost, causing tremendous strain on workers and their families.

ROC United Co-Founder/Co-Director, Saru Jayaraman said, “Living off tips force unique and incredible hardship on the lives of tipped workers, the lionshare of whom are women and people of color. A whopping nineteen percent of restaurant workers live in poverty in New York State, and nearly half (48%) live at or below the poverty line. Among single moms the rates are higher, with 35% living in poverty, and 70% living at or below the poverty line. For them, evening shifts, and thus nightcare, are essential to make ends meet.” She continues, “A dependable wage for all workers, regardless of shift, would reduce the premium parents who are tipped workers place on those late shifts where tips are highest.”

Key findings include:

– A growing number of low-wage workers depend on nightcare for their children that is affordable and in their neighborhood. Tipped workers are oftentimes uniquely dependent on nightcare, since they earn as low as $2.13 per hour and must vie for the highest earning shifts at night and on weekends, when tips are highest, in order to maximize their income.

– Nightcare is largely inaccessible through licensed providers, forcing workers to depend on informal and underground networks to provide for their children. There are few licensed nightcare providers, and limited efforts to assist with licensing or expansion of coverage.

– The lack of affordable nightcare in one’s neighborhood has led many restaurant workers to supplement their income or switch their occupation and engage in child care work, in particular during their children’s early years.

– In the absence of accessible licensed nightcare, unlicensed providers that specialize in nightcare for low-wage workers like restaurant workers and security guards have grown in number.

Possible solutions include:

– Policymakers should respond to the growing need for nightcare by increasing the provision of affordable nightcare and ensuring it is accessible in workers’ neighborhoods

– Policymakers should support programmatic interventions allowing the restaurant industry to ‘grow our own,’ and draw upon restaurant workers’ child care experience to help license restaurant workers as nightcare providers focused on the restaurant industry, expand existing nightcare providers, and help license existing unlicensed providers.

– Policymakers should follow the lead of high road employers and eliminate the subminimum wage and raise the minimum wage, thereby reducing demand for nightcare in the restaurant industry by making daytime shifts as lucrative as nighttime positions.

Find the full report here:

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.