by Marion Nestle
Apr 9 2014

Lobbying against the minimum wage for restaurant workers

Bill Moyers interviewed Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) about the attacks from the Restaurant Industry on this organization’s efforts to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers.  In many states, that wage is  $2.13 an hour.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you wonder why so many Americans doing essential but menial work at low wages never seem to get a break, here’s an answer for you. That’s how it’s intended to be. Not by nature, or the market, or from any lack of character or will on the part of workers. No, the fact is: our system is organized against them. The very thing workers most want and need – a fair wage – is the very thing the controlling interests don’t want them to have. And by controlling interests, I mean the owners of capital, who were emboldened even further this week by the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision giving monied interests more opportunity to rig the political system against everyday Americans.

As Jayaraman explains,

we would argue that evidence shows that you could actually do better as an industry, faster industry growth, more jobs, if you treat your workers better…it would cost the average American household at most $0.10 more for all food bought outside the home. That’s groceries and restaurants alike. So we’re talking pennies more on your hamburger when you eat out, for 30 million workers to come out of poverty.

But let’s look at how the political system gets rigged against low-wage restaurant workers.  For this, its useful to check the Open Secrets database on “The Money Against The Minimum Wage.”

The list of organizations that signed a letter opposing the minimum wage increase and how much they spent on total lobbying in 2013.  Three examples:

  • American Hotel and Lodging Association     $1,310,000
  • National Restaurant Association                         $2,238,691
  • US Chamber of Commerce                                  $74,470,000

No, that last one is not a misprint.

Why would the US Chamber of Commerce spend more than $74 million on lobbying?

As the New York Times explains,

The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions…also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda.

Who donates to the Chamber of Commerce?  It’s a secret.

The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

This is another reason why it’s so important to support ROC and its campaigns.

  • StellaBarbone

    California restaurant workers must be paid at least minimum wage not including their tips and yet we have a thriving restaurant industry.

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  • Chipeta

    I agree with StellaB. Every person who walks into the establishment
    becomes the boss when you work for tips.
    This fact lessens the owner from insuring that their people are
    protected from less desirable diners who now control the worker. In addition, that owner/manager also has the
    power to forgive a tab if the diner has an issue. The result is no tip. How can someone pay a mortgage/rent with these instabilities of income?

    Encourage and expect professionalism in the task of being a
    restaurant worker. Pay a living wage and
    pass the cost onto the diner who would benefit from the stable, professional staff. It’s a win, win, win situation.

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  • Carl

    This minimum wage for waitstaff will be a wonderful improvement. Then I will no longer have to fuss around calculating tips and handouts. Just a steady paycheck for workers and NO MORE TIPS – finally something customers can get behind! Tipping has become such a racket, long past time to do away with it entirely. Fantastic!

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