ROC United Demands Higher Pay for Tipped Workers with ‘One Fair Wage’ Campaign
Members from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) met with the Connecticut Labor Committee Thursday to discuss a tip credit elimination bill that would raise the sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers. The Connecticut meeting was part of ROC United’s nationwide ‘One Fair Wage’ campaign.
The bill, cosponsored by Senator Gary Winfield and Representative Peter Tercyak, would increase the current sub-minimum wage of $5.78 per hour to match the regular minimum of $9.15 per hour.
The ‘One Fair Wage’ campaign is aimed at states that pay a sub-minimum wage to tipped workers and, if successful, would allow restaurants to subsidize the increased wage with tip money. Restaurants are required to “top-off” workers’ pay when tips don’t add up to minimum wage, but wage theft has reached “epidemic levels” according to the ROC United website.
Thursday’s public hearing with the Connecticut Labor Committee discussed this issue and “went really well,” said ROC United Connecticut policy maker Danielle Donnelly.
ROC United is aimed at helping both men and women, but a disproportionate number of Connecticut’s tipped workers are female; 66.2 percent as reported by the American Community Survey (ACS).
“ROC works for servers of both sexes” said Donnelly, “but this becomes a women’s issue when you consider the percentages.”
A UConn student, who agreed to speak on the condition that she remained anonymous for fear of reprisals from her boss, said that she had felt victimized by wage theft and sexual harassment, “It happened to me, it happens to a lot of us, but it’s just too hard to prove and I don’t want to lose my job.”
The Equal Employment Commission (EEC) found that the restaurant industry is responsible for the most sexual harassment charges of any industry. Co-founder of ROC United, Saru Jayaraman, believes that ‘One Fair Wage’ has the solution.
“‘One Fair Wage’ bills will ensure that all tipped restaurant workers, mostly women, no longer have to live shift-to-shift off tips alone and feel forced to put up with sexual harassment,” Jayaraman said in a statement released on the ROC United website.
Seven states are moving forward with legislation to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“If people want to see policy get changed we need to make public officials aware of what is going on,” Donnelly continued, “It would be effective to reach out to legislators.”
ROC United has bases established in 12 major United States cities, but is new to Connecticut. The Connecticut office opened December of 2014