• Press

For Immediate Release: September 10, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720 352 6153

Leading Workers’ Rights Advocate: Cuomo — End Legislated Pay Inequity Against Women, Do Not Leave Women Dominated Tipped Workforce Behind in $15 Minimum Wage Push for New York State

The following statement should be attributed to Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), the largest restaurant workers’ rights advocacy organization in the country.

“To exclude 380,000 tipped workers — 53 percent of whom are people of color, 21 percent of whom are living at or below the poverty level — from a $15 minimum wage would take $6.9 billion in potential economic stimulus off the table for New York state. Median pay for a tipped worker in New York, including tips, is just $9.43 an hour — far from a living wage for New York. If New York is actually the progressive capital of the nation, like Governor Cuomo said this afternoon, he must build on the incredible victory of winning $15 for fast-food workers and join the seven states that have already eliminated the unfair and sexist two-tiered wage system and establish one, fair wage for all workers.

“Because majority of people living off tips are women — nationally more than 70 percent of servers are women and 56 percent of New York’s tipped workers are women — the existence of a separate, lower wage for tipped workers amounts to legislated pay inequity against women. In addition to living in poverty at two and half times the rate of New York’s workforce, women endure sexual harassment with staggering frequency as a result of living off tips. Our research shows that 90% of women tipped workers face sexual harassment on the job.

“Earlier this year when the Wage Board called for an historic increase to New York’s tipped minimum wage — raising it from $5 to $7.50 an hour by the end of this year — the decision fell short of what the vast majority New York’s workers need and voters support — an end to the lower wage for tipped workers in favor of establishing one, fair minimum wage for all. The Wage Board called for a review of the two-tiered wage system; as New York pushes forward in raising the minimum wage for all New Yorkers, now’s the time to commit to fixing a deeply dysfunctional business model that forces nearly 400,000 workers in New York to live off the generosity of customers and a sub-minimum wage. All workers, regardless of their occupation, need to be paid a full and fair minimum wage directly by their employer.”


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 close to 14,000 worker-members across over 30 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.