The following is a statement from ROC United Co-Founder and Co-Director, Saru Jayaraman:
“The Maine Department of Labor’s decision is a brazen attempt to undermine the will of the people. What’s more, it is the work of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). For decades they have fought to block policies that forge a fairer restaurant industry.
“On election day, the majority of Mainers voted to end the tipped minimum wage. Maine’s elected officials must enforce this important ballot initiative.
“The stakes have never been higher for Maine’s tipped workers. This makes the Department of Labor’s actions all the more egregious. Seventy nine percent of tipped workers in Maine are women. They get the majority of their income from customer tips, and are thus particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. Maine’s servers and bartenders live in poverty at twice the rate of the overall workforce. The median wage for servers is just nine dollars and six cents, including tips. Only a small percentage of servers earn a living wage. They are some of Maine’s most vulnerable workers. Maine needs a Department of Labor that will fight for them, not invalidate and silence them.
The elimination of the subminimum wage in Maine will not harm the restaurant industry. In fact, the tipped minimum wage will phase out slowly, as to avoid a shock to the industry. Additionally, Maine is not alone. Seven other states have eliminated the subminimum wage, and their restaurant industries are healthy. Workers there continue to earn tips on top of the minimum wage.
“The Department of Labor’s decision is unjust and unacceptable. ROC United will stand with the restaurant workers of Maine against this effort to undermine the voice of the people.”