One Fair Wage Wants to Help Reopen Restaurants—and Change How They Pay Workers


When the coronavirus pandemic hit New York City in mid-March, town’s restaurant trade was among the many first to really feel the shock. With so many eating places shuttered since then, restaurant employees are reeling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 200,000 restaurant and bar staffers misplaced their jobs between March and April, a 68.1 % discount.

As a part of an effort to lay the inspiration for reopening, final week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a $three million Restaurant Revitalization Program, which can present funding to 100 family-run eating places pressured to shut due to COVID-19.

The venture is a part of a collaboration with One Fair Wage, a nationwide group devoted to elevating wages and growing fairness for service employees. Restaurants are eligible for a $30,000 grant from New York City and a $5,000 grant from One Fair Wage. Restaurants that don’t land $30,000 from town, however commit to One Fair Wage’s fairness program, even have the chance to apply to get your complete $35,000 from One Fair Wage. The group launched a model of this initiative, which they name High Roads Kitchens, in California in May.

In line with One Fair Wage’s mission, the funding comes with a couple of stipulations: Restaurant homeowners should pay $20 an hour (earlier than ideas) to every employee for six weeks, after which should commit to paying $15 an hour for all employees—together with tipped employees—inside 5 years. The requirement is an effort to finish a apply nonetheless in use in 43 states that enables employees who obtain at the least $30 monthly in ideas to be paid simply $2.13 per hour.

Restaurants should additionally present 500 free meals per week to low-wage employees, well being care employees, or others who’re struggling because of the pandemic. Priority may even be given to eating places in neighborhoods hardest hit economically by the pandemic, particularly in low-income communities of colour.

“Having 100 restaurants commit . . . will go a long way toward moving to one fair wage at the state level,” says Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, and the director of the Food Labor Research Center on the University of California, Berkeley.

“The idea that tips can count against wages is a direct legacy of slavery, [and] we were seeing it spread to other tipped workers, even gig workers,” she added. “So what we really needed to be fighting for is the notion of ‘no worker left behind.’ Nobody in America who works—tipped, not tipped, incarcerated, disabled—nobody should get less than a full minimum wage when they work.”

Civil Eats spoke with Jayaraman after the Restaurant Revitalization Program was unveiled about this system and what it means for eating places—and meals service employees—in New York City and nationwide.

This venture takes intention on the sub-minimum tipped wage. How has the pandemic highlighted why this can be a horrible thought?

On Friday, March 13, 10 million restaurant and different service employees misplaced their jobs. We began an emergency fund for employees on March 16. We raised $23 million, we received virtually 180,000 candidates from across the nation, and we’ve been handing out money funds. We have a authorized clinic, monetary counseling for these employees, and a tax prep program for them.

But most significantly, we’ve been organizing them at giant tele-town halls with U.S. senators, governors, and state legislators. And what they’re saying in huge numbers is that they don’t seem to be ready entry unemployment insurance coverage largely due to the sub-minimum wage for tipped employees. Many states are being informed that the wage plus ideas is too low to meet the minimal threshold to qualify for advantages.

Or they’re being informed, “Your boss never reported your tips, so you either don’t qualify or you’re gonna earn a lot less than you should have.” And it’s worse for employees of colour, as a result of they have a tendency to work in additional informal eating places the place there are money ideas, as opposed to fantastic eating, the place ideas are usually on bank cards.

What’s it like proper now for restaurant workers within the seven states which have dedicated to paying a minimal wage for all employees?

Workers in California, Washington, Nevada, and the 4 different states that [pay all restaurant workers a fair wage] are all getting unemployment insurance coverage measured on a $15 an hour minimal wage plus ideas. They’re in the identical occupation, it’s simply that they occur to dwell in a distinct state. So possibly they’ll give you the chance to survive when you’ve received these tens of millions of individuals—principally ladies of colour—in different states not ready to survive. The people who find themselves making use of to the fund are telling us that they’ve cash for lower than two weeks of groceries for his or her youngsters. It’s a dire state of affairs.

“Workers are really up in arms about all across the country is being forced to go back to a sub-minimum wage job when tips are down nationally.”

But the opposite factor that employees are actually up in arms about all throughout the nation is being pressured to return to a sub-minimum wage job when ideas are down nationally. We estimate [they’re down] by about 80 %, as a result of individuals don’t tip as a lot for takeout and supply. Even when eating places re-open, they’ll be at half capability. Workers are saying, “How could you make me go back for $2 or $3 an hour, and there are no tips?” So all of that is has led to employers who had fought us previously on this concern now saying that they need to work with us to transfer their very own eating places to one truthful wage.

What do eating places pay earlier than ideas in New York City?

It’s 66 % of the general minimal wage, which is now $15. So it’s $10. But exterior of town it’s $7. It doesn’t have as far to go: New York might do that—it’s solely a $5 [difference]!—they might make this transformation, and once they do, it’s going to have a big reverberating affect on different blue states within the area.

And right here’s the most important factor: There are quite a lot of trade leaders, who fought us previously or who didn’t need to discuss to us, who at the moment are going to one truthful wage or who’re saying, “I’ll be vocal and fight!”

It seems like there are two methods to apply for this grant—by means of One Fair Wage and thru town. Which approach ought to a restaurant apply?

I feel it’s simpler for individuals in the event that they undergo us, as a result of we can assist them by means of the method. And additionally, in the event that they’re chosen by us, they [are more likely to get chosen] by means of town. And the reason being that individuals who work with us undergo our Equity Toolkit and Training Program.

Where does One Fair Wage get the funding for this program?

There had been a variety of funders who needed to assist our aid efforts. Some gave to the Emergency Fund, some had been very within the High Road Kitchens program, as a result of it accomplishes many issues without delay. It hires individuals, it feeds individuals. But extra importantly, it shapes the trade to be extra resilient and equitable going ahead. We additionally received a big grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assist the trouble in New York.

Is $35,000 going to be sufficient to assist a restaurant re-open?

We did much less in California—between $15,000 and $25,000—and it allowed eating places to re-open. They’re not utilizing the cash to pay all their lease and repay their debt. They’re utilizing it to get stock, convey again some employees, and re-open with takeout and supply in a approach that enables them to re-engage with their clients and get again on their ft.

Once the eating places are all signed up, we’ll be doing occasions and selling the hell out of them. Given the second, there’s a lot need amongst shoppers to assist eating places which might be dedicated to racial fairness, so I’ve little question that the eating places collaborating will get a variety of further enterprise.

How will One Fair Wage and/or the Mayor’s workplace know whether or not these eating places really pay $20 an hour now and $15 an hour sooner or later?

In California, we do common audits of the eating places asking for stories on their payroll and their wages, and in addition speaking to employees. We’ll be doing that each month for 5 years to be sure everyone goes to one truthful wage. And if the eating places don’t comply they gained’t be eligible to apply for any future metropolis applications.

Obviously, 100 is only a small fraction of New York City’s 26,000 eating places. Is the hope that this program will encourage good practices all through the trade?

Yes, precisely. The chief of an unbiased restaurant affiliation is planning to transfer to one truthful wage with out the [grant] cash. And there are different eating places which might be planning to do the identical factor. We simply have to repair this tip-sharing rule on the state degree to enable everyone to … create some fairness between back and front of the home as properly. With some strict prohibitions in opposition to employers taking any portion of that.

Critics say that eating places can’t afford to pay $20 an hour, particularly now when so many have fallen into debt due to the coronavirus. What do you say to that?

We’ve had 31 eating places enroll by means of us. So the concept that individuals don’t need to do that is factually incorrect. This cash helps individuals get again on their ft! So I’d flip the query again on them: How might these teams [the New York State Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance] look down on free money grants to eating places? The solely cause they’re condemning it’s as a result of they know in addition to we try this this is step one towards profitable this as coverage in New York state. I feel it’s necessary for everyone to elevate the query: If these individuals actually signify small enterprise, how might they condemn a free money grant program?

One of our High Road restaurant homeowners—when she noticed this response from Hospitality Alliance—she forwarded me a quote [from the statement Mississippi issued when it seceded from the Union before the Civil War]: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. . . . These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.” This is how they’ve responded for 200 years when change is imminent: They declare there isn’t any approach we will make change.

And my God, if there’s any second to take into consideration change, it’s now. Even I used to be skeptical that we might do something on this second. It was restaurant homeowners who had been like, “No Saru, this is exactly the right the time—we’re all closed, we’re all rethinking everything. This is the right time.”