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Berkeley professor: 'Food workers deserve a raise'

Berkeley professor: 'Food workers deserve a raise'

0 Comment(s) | Posted | by Ian Pajer-Rogers |

The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy

From The Cincinnati Enquirer:

by Fatima Hussein

CLIFTON – In many Cincinnati restaurants, the people who put the food on your table can't afford to put food on their own. Especially when the minimum wage for tipped workers in Ohio is $4.05 an hour.

So says Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, and co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Jayaraman, a restaurant and food labor activist, called for an end to the tipping system – which she says is a vestige of slavery – and called for wages to be raised to $15 an hour.

"Businesses that are raising wages are succeeding not in spite of their workers doing well, but because they are doing well," Jayaraman told a crowd of labor leaders, activists and local politicians at the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center's annual May Day meeting Friday.

Jayaraman was referring to Chipotle, Shake Shack and other large restaurant corporations that have voluntarily raised workers' pay.

The restaurant industry is the second fastest growing in the nation, according to the National Restaurant Association, though studies of wages, including those by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, show that restaurant workers are the lowest paid workers in Cincinnati.

"More than 70 percent of tipped workers are women," she said, and it's no surprise that female restaurant workers are five times more likely than other workers to experience sexual harassment and sexual assault.  "They have to take it because it's all in the name of making the customer happy. At the end of the day, the restaurant isn't paying their bills, the customer is."

Restaurant representatives, namely the National Restaurant Association, the seventh-largest lobbying group in Washington, D.C., have come down hard against wage increases for restaurant workers.

"Many restaurateurs would be forced to limit hiring, increase prices, cut employee hours or implement a combination of all three to pay for the wage increase," the organization states on its website.

Jayaraman says the argument is patently untrue.

Adding that the restaurant industry is seeing its biggest labor shortage in U.S. history, Jayaraman said studies have shown that states that have mandated a higher wage tend to perform better economically than before companies raise wages.

Read more from The Cincinnati Enquirer.

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