The Tipping Point: Minimum Wage Battle Gains Momentum

by Sarah Henry on April 21, 2014 · 2 comments

in food events,food organizations,food politics,food research,restaurants

Big tips make headlines. Consider the almost $500 gratuity on a $6 bill received by a Steak ‘n’ Shake waitress in Indianapolis, or the $1,000 that host Ellen DeGeneres gave Edgar Martiroysan, the pizza delivery guy at the Academy awards. But reality is far less lucrative for most restaurant workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet in a notoriously low-paid industry.

“The largest workforce in America can’t put food on the table—except when they go to work,” says Saru Jayaraman, who advocates for change both as an advocate and as a researcher at UC Berkeley.

Jayaraman believes 2014 may be the year that these employees, some 10 million strong across the United States, get the pay raise they’ve been waiting for—for 23 years. “There’s so much anger right now towards big corporate groups,” she notes, citing a new commitment to minimum-wage workers across the country and in Congress. “There’s incredible momentum right now for our work.”

Meanwhile, the wage debate is also going local. In California alone, campaigns are under way in Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland to join San Francisco and San Jose in setting a minimum wage higher than state law. Similiar initiatives are in the works in Los Angeles and San Diego and, indeed, in cities and states around the country. Trendsetter San Francisco’s proposal would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Jayaraman, who oversees Cal’s Food Labor Research Center and co-founded Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, is the subject of my story for California, the alumni publication and website of UCB.

For localites: Jayaraman is featured on a panel discussion tonight, The Hands That Feed Us: Labor in the Food System, as a part of Cal’s Edible Education program.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris J April 22, 2014 at 6:24 am

True dat. While I may have personal issues paying $18 for a bowl of ramen with pork that has been raised and slaughtered ethically, organically fed with a broth that has been crafted for days to get to perfection, and with a staff that has been paid a living wage and provided access to health benefits, I have no objections to people getting paid well and being given health benefits.

An Australian we know of recently came to the States and was astounded at how cheap the food was, how cheap car rentals etc. were…well, let me quote what he said in his own comment. Just a typical Australian making an observation…

” As in cheap. Very cheap. Compared to Australia….meals, shopping, rental car, hotel, etc…about a third of what we pay here in Perth. Granted North Carolina is not high-end America….but we were stunned – at the prices, and the great quality. Of course there is a catch…a big one…..we know American workers in most of these places only get a fraction of what they would earn in Australia…and get no benefits…medical, leave, retirement beyond SS…etc…Just paid by the hour and not much $7,8,9..an hour….Little more than slavery….$17 an hour to stack cans here – plus benefits if you work regularly……so much for the land of the free….…freedom to be bent over by the rich….and receive their blessing – try not to drip…..”

Nuff said!

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Sarah Henry April 22, 2014 at 6:55 am

Ha! Gotta love those Aussies and their real talking ways. You know I’m Australian, right, Chris?

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