Highlights: All Work and No Pay

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Did you know the federal minimum wage for millions of restaurant workers is just $2.13 per hour? Activist Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, spoke with Bill about the group’s fight to improve those wages — and working conditions — in America’s eateries. Below are highlight clips from their conversation.

On the Relentless Attack by the National Restaurant Association
“The truth is that Richard Berman’s been following us around for the last decade, trying to shut us down on behalf of the National Restaurant Association. Over the last year they’ve definitely heated up the pressure, trying to kill our message, whatever way they can,” Jayaraman tells Moyers in this clip.

On Why Wage Increases for Restaurant Workers Is a Women’s Issue
Millions of young women start their work life working in restaurants, and some continue to work in the industry when they get older. “They suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the US workforce, and they use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce. So we’re talking about poverty-wage workers, including their tips.”

On Why Mandatory Sick Days Are Better for All
Restaurant workers are twice as likely as other Americans to be on public assistance, so improving wages could reduce their reliance on social services and help many of these workers out of poverty. Mandatory sick days would help customer’s health too: “Two-thirds of restaurant workers report cooking, preparing and serving our food when they’re sick,” Jayaraman says.

On What She’s Learned About The Powers That Be
Jayaraman observes that “there are moneyed forces that have controlled our system. But also there’s nothing that the people cannot achieve once they expose those forces and once they resist.” She tells Bill that she believes she can overcome “even the most hardened, moneyed lobbyists in Washington, DC.”

Watch Bill’s full interview with Saru Jayaraman »

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  • Anonymous

    Now, I need to rethink my practice of giving at least 30% tips and make sure, somehow, that my server is the one who gets the money. Suggestions?