ROC United honors MLK’s vision for justice, respect and dignity for workers

“It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.”

Those powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring true. Nearly 60 years ago, when he marched on Washington, D.C. for jobs and better wages, the federal minimum wage was $1.25 an hour. Today, the federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour and, unacceptably, $2.13 for tipped workers.

About 40 percent of restaurant workers live paycheck to paycheck. Without sick paid leave and proper healthcare, many of them rely on public assistance and live in poverty. And without clear job protections in the workplace, they still face discrimination, wage theft and harassment each day. Segregation is still common: Black workers make up nearly one-fifth of all cooks, but only four percent of bartenders.  

As we join the nation to remember and honor the extraordinary legacy of Dr. King, we must continue to fight against racial and gender inequities and economic justices for restaurant workers — the same labor issues that Dr. King sacrificed and died for. 

 In the spirit of Dr. King’s nonviolent movement, we must push for the Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights. We must remain steadfast and strong to build power among workers in order for them to have living wages, have access to better jobs and benefits, and create an industry that allows each of them and their families to thrive, heal and rest, and live in a country that believes in respect and dignity for all workers.


Dr. Sekou Siby

President and CEO