By SARU JAYARAMAN --This is a special Labor Day for the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). 2011 is an incredible year – not only the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and the origins of our founding, but also the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. We see so many parallels in the incredibly labor movement built in the aftermath of that tragedy, and the restaurant worker movement we are trying to build in the aftermath of 9/11.
– Historic Legislation Comes Days after Nat’l Low Wage Worker Day of Action, Long Overdue for Nation’s Tipped Workers, Mostly Women, Earning $2.13 since 1991 –
July 26, 2012: ROC United and our 10,000 restaurant worker-members across the country are serving up a heaping plate of appreciation for Representative Miller (D-CA) and his proposed Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012. Introduced today, this much-needed increase to the subminimum wage of $2.13 for tipped workers, which has remained unmoved since 1991, and regular minimum wage of $7.25 will give the 10 million restaurant workers across the country a desperately needed boost in their pay. This bill introduction comes days after mass mobilizations across the country for the Low Wage Worker Day of Action to raise the minimum wage.
Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director of ROC United, commended Representative Miller, saying, “Miller’s bill represents the first initiative by House leadership that would include a much-needed increase for tipped workers in more than 15 years, and we cannot thank him enough. ROC United has been fighting to raise $2.13 for many years and an increase is long overdue for the people who work hard every day to nourish our families at restaurants across America. While the restaurant industry projects record profit in 2012 of $625 billion, our nation’s tipped workers – the servers, bussers, and bartenders at your favorite restaurants – have been earning $2.13 since 1991. The majority of these tipped workers are women, many living in poverty and supporting children, and they can no longer afford to be left behind.”
A number of organizations in addition to ROC United, such as the National Employment Law Project, MomsRising, National Women’s Law Center, 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, and others have been leading the fight to raise the tipped minimum wage and the minimum wage.
The proposed Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 would raise poverty wages in the restaurant industry, impacting over 10 million restaurant workers by:
- RAISING $2.13: Each year, increasing the unacceptable $2.13/hour earned by the nation’s tipped workers by 85 cents until the tipped minimum wage reaches 70% of the regular minimum wage. Restaurant servers – of whom 71 percent are female – are almost three times more likely to be paid below the poverty line than the general workforce and nearly twice as likely to need food stamps as the general population (https://rocunited.org/tipped-over-the-edge-gender-inequity-in-the-restaurant-industry/)
- RAISING $7.25: Increasing the poverty level federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.80 by 2014 in three gradual steps.
- INDEXING: For the first time since the passage of the Fair Labor Standard Act, the bill will index the minimum wage so that it automatically increases every year, giving workers a raise to match increases in cost of living.
Amelia Ormerod, resident of Houston, Texas and 20 year veteran of the industry who has been earning $2.13 since she started working in restaurants as a teenager, was elated to hear of the proposed legislation, saying, “There are so many restaurant workers across the country but our industry gets no respect and our wages reflect that. It is hard enough to support yourself on the minimum wage let alone $2.13. Now, raising $2.13 a couple of dollars might not sound like a lot to people but, for us, it makes a big difference in our every day lives – it can mean an extra tank of gas or cover a utility bill each month.”