Press Release
Contact: maria [at] rocunited [dot] org

Restaurant Worker Advocate, Author, and Academic, Saru Jayaraman, to be Honored as a White House ‘Champion of Change’

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House will name Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and author of Behind the Kitchen Door,a “Champion of Change.” She receives this distinction with several activists, advocates, and business owners committed to making a fair and livable wage accessible to everyone and reestablishing the basic promise that no American working fulltime should have to live in poverty.

“This award is about amplifying the voices of restaurant workers across the country who are living off tips because their base wage is just $2.13 an hour; the waitresses who deal with sexual harassment every day and are told to get used to it because it’s ‘just part of the job’; and the millions of tipped workers who are routinely thrown under the bus at the last minute during minimum wage negotiations,” said Saru Jayaraman. “Raising the tipped minimum wage won’t just help those workers—it could provide our economy with a much needed boost. In fact, seven states that have raised the tipped minimum wage have seen faster restaurant job growth than the national average. As the White House honors the amazing work of my fellow activists, it’s crucial to remember that although this week marks five long years since the last time the regular minimum wage was raised, it’s been nearly five times that long since the federal tipped minimum wage was raised. Since 1991, tipped workers across 19 states have been paid the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. It’s time for Congress to step up and give all of America’s workers access to a fair minimum wage.”

Joining Saru Jayaraman at the ceremony will be Stephanie Roth (ROC-DC lead organizer), Woong Chang (ROC-DC member and board member), Imar Hutchins (owner of local restaurant, Florida Avenue Grill and member of Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards for Employment), and Andrew Nguyen and Leslie Escobosa (both ROC-NY organizers). Their voices will add to the hundreds of stories of workers living off tips that ROC has collected at

The ceremony takes place today at 1:00 pm EDT. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit  To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit


Co-founded by labor rights leader Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News) ROC United has grown to over 13,000 members across 26 cities in the US, winning 13 worker-led campaigns, totaling $7 million in stolen tips and wages.