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We made Nation’s Restaurant News’ POWER List!

power listIn Nation’s Restaurant News’ first annual Power List, ROC United’s co-founder & co-director, Saru Jayaraman, is listed as one of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry. The list includes a wide-variety of well-known names — from CEOs to activists — including Michael Pollan (of Food Inc.), Clarence Otis Jr. (CEO of Darden Restaurants Inc, the world’s largest full-service restaurant brand), and executives from Starbucks, McDonalds, and YUM! Brands.

From Nation’s Restaurant News:

Saru Jayaraman would like the public to be just as concerned about the welfare of restaurant employees as it is about animal welfare and sustainable food practices.

Jayaraman is the co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization originally founded to support the Windows on the World restaurant workers displaced after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. ROC now has about 10,000 members in 19 cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Miami.

The organization has assisted employees in filing lawsuits against restaurants over issues of pay, discrimination and working conditions, including lawsuits against high-end celebrity chefs such as Daniel Boulud in New York. It also has sponsored protests and demonstrations for restaurant employees seeking minimum wage increases, better pay in the quick-service segment and health care coverage.

In addition, ROC helped restaurant workers establish Colors, a cooperative restaurant with units in New York and Detroit that provides free training to help workers develop skills to pursue restaurant careers.

A daughter of immigrants from southern India, Jayaraman is a graduate of Yale Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She grew up in a Mexican-American neighborhood in southeast Los Angeles. Fluent in Spanish, she has long been an advocate for immigrants and the underprivileged.

Her latest book, “Behind the Kitchen Door,” explores the political, economic and moral implications of dining out. In it, Jayaraman examines poor working conditions and discriminatory labor practices by chronicling the lives of restaurant employees in major urban cities.

Read the entire list here.


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Should Restaurants Do Away with Tipping?

Several restaurants across the US have done away with tipping – causing quite a bit of chatter regarding the institution of tipping and the restaurant industry at large. While we are definitely for restaurants that do away with tipping in favor of a stable and livable wage, the restaurant industry is too large to depend on the voluntary elimination of poverty wages and unsustainable labor standards. The tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 per hour since 1991. The vast majority of servers don’t work at high-end restaurants, they work at Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and IHOPs across the country. Tips aren’t just something extra to reward or incentivize good service, that tip is the majority of a server’s wage — making or breaking the difference between being able to afford rent and groceries. In fact, servers use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce, and are three times as likely to live in poverty, which is exactly why we need to legislate a livable wage that doesn’t exclude tipped workers.

Our co-director, Saru Jayaraman, chatted with some correspondents from The Today Show on the prospect of eliminating tips. Watch the entire segment, and her brief clip below:

Interested in more about tipping?

- Check out The New York Times’ “Room For Debate” – To Tip or Not to Tip here

- Meet some of the folks behind the kitchen door, like Nakima, here

“Is Restaurant Tipping the Worst? The former owner of a tip-less restaurant says doing away with gratuities leads to higher wages and better service.” from TakePart

- Our forebearers originally viewed tipping as antithetical to American democratic ideals

Join the movement to raise industry standards – start receiving our campaign updates. 

Realizing The Dream Featured Image

Realizing The Dream: How the Minimum Wage Impacts Racial Equity in the Restaurant Industry and In America

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of the demands of that march was for a minimum wage high enough to secure a healthy and vibrant nation of workers who could provide for their families and participate in the nation’s prosperity. Despite this historic effort, income inequality retards many of the gains of the civil rights movement.

The federal minimum wage for all workers has stagnated at $7.25 per hour, and the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers has remained frozen at $2.13 per hour for over two decades. As a result, millions of Americans find themselves struggling in poverty even while working a full-time job. Though many work 40 hours or more each week, their wages are low enough that they must rely on food stamps and other public benefits to sustain themselves and their families. The minimum wage, at its current level, economically excludes and marginalizes millions of people who could instead be generators of growth throughout the economy. This burden falls disproportionately on people of color, since they represent 42% of minimum wage earners yet only make up 32% of the total workforce.

The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the United States economy, employing over 10 million workers. The industry is the largest employer of people of color, and the second largest employer of immigrants. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry is the largest low-wage employer, accounting for 39% of all workers earning at or below the minimum wage. Workers of color and immigrants are disproportionately concentrated in the industry’s lowest paying positions. Forty percent of all tipped workers are people of color, and over 23% of all tipped workers are immigrants, a disproportionate number compared to the 16% of immigrants in the total workforce. Overall, 58% of workers with incomes below the poverty line, and over 50% of tipped workers and restaurant workers with incomes below the poverty line are people of color. 

Nearly six million workers would be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 as has been proposed in Congress, of which 60%, or over three and a half million would be people of color. Over 500,000 of these would be restaurant workers, and nearly 300,000 of these would be workers of color. Nearly 50% of tipped workers lifted out of poverty would be workers of color. Examining all tipped workers and their families, over 400,000 individuals of color would be lifted out of poverty, and 150,000 of these would be children. Among restaurant workers and their families, over 700,000 people of color would be lifted out of poverty, and over 250,000 would be children.

On all counts, an increase to the minimum and tipped minimum wage is a sensible solution. It would raise millions out of poverty, including hundreds of thousands of children and their families; it would especially help African Americans and Latinos (populations that played a pivotal role in the 2012 elections), and lift up communities that have been marginalized and denied the opportunity to escape poverty. Similarly, any effort to block certain groups, such as tipped workers, from receiving the benefits of an increase to the  tipped minimum wage would mean hundreds of thousands of children and their families would continue to suffer a dream denied.

Download the full report here.

This report was released on June 19th, 2013 by ROC United along with the Applied Research Center (ARC), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Center for New Community (CNC), Color of Change, The Greenlining Institute, Jobs With Justice (JWJ), National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Praxis Project, and the United Workers Congress released a report studying the impacts of the full and tipped minimum wage on communities of color.

Workplace Justice Outreach Organizer

Founded initially after September 11th, 2001, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) has grown into a national organization with 8000 low-wage restaurant worker members in eight locations, and growing rapidly. From 2001 until 2008, our work was focused in New York City, and achieved great success in impact for restaurant workers. In summer 2007, ROC-NY hosted the nation’s first national restaurant worker convening, and the national organization, ROC-United, was born. In January 2008, the co-founders of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) left the local organization in the hands of former members and restaurant workers, and went on to launch ROC-United.
Over the last ten years, we have won more than ten workplace justice campaigns, winning more than $6 million in misappropriated tips and wages and discrimination payments for low-wage workers, and significant policy changes in high-profile fine dining restaurant companies covering thousands of workers. We have partnered with more than 100 responsible restaurant owners to promote the ‘high road’ to profitability, and have trained more than 2500 restaurant workers to advance to livable wage jobs within the industry. We have also published fifteen ground-breaking reports on the restaurant industry, obtaining significant media coverage, played an instrumental role in winning a statewide minimum wage increase for tipped workers, and initiated other policy campaigns at the local, state, and federal level. We have organized restaurant workers to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurants in New York and Detroit.
Since January 2008 we have launched affiliates in New Orleans, Miami, Michigan, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, The Bay Area, and Washington, DC. In each region, we conduct workplace justice campaigns, partner with ‘high road’ restaurants to conduct advance restaurant workforce development programs, and collaborate with local academics and other allies to produce comprehensive participatory research and policy initiatives. Nationally, we organize convenings of restaurant workers, Congressional briefings, public fora, and more. In these ways, ROC continues to build power and voice for low-wage restaurant workers at the local, state, and federal levels.
ROC-U worked with local residents to launch ROC-Miami in 2009, to organize restaurant workers in Miami-Dade County. ROC-Miami has 800 members and engages in workplace justice and policy campaigns, and workforce development work.

ROC seeks a part-time Workplace Justice Outreach Organizer in Miami.

Under direct supervision of the ROC-United management team, and ROC-Miami Lead Coordinator this Workplace Justice Outreach organizer will:
• Assist the Lead Coordinator as they;
- Develop and implement strategies to get ROC to victory against target;
- Organize, recruit and retain leaders from target(s) to WPJ Committee;
- Assignments to other staff and leaders on campaign;
- Develop social media/outreach plan as part of campaign.
• Help the Lead Coordinator grow ROC-Miami’s membership and leadership through
- Developing leadership and political consciousness amongst restaurant workers through trainings, relationship building, and shared experiences;
- Increasing membership of impacted restaurant workers through extensive outreach and recruitment;
- Assisting with administrative duties and managing growth of ROC membership

• Other Responsibilities as needed.

• 1-3 years labor/community/political campaign organizing experience;
• ROC Miami membership highly preferred;
• Demonstration of a professional attitude;
• Willingness and openness to learn and grow;
• Able to communicate openly with direct supervisors;
• Possess reliable transportation;
• Demonstrated commitment to racial, social, and economic justice;
• Some local travel required;
• Restaurant work experience a plus; and
• Fluency in Spanish preferred, fluency in Creole highly desired.

15 hour/week.

Please send cover letter and resume detailing your qualifications to
Immigrants, women, LGBT, and people of color encouraged to apply.