“The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has cooked up an unappetizing menu for anyone who cares about decent jobs, women’s rights, animal welfare, or safe, healthy, sustainable food.”
This is the introduction to the Week of Action campaign from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), beginning April 28th. ROC United is a representative network of restaurant workers, employers, and consumers. ROC’s Week of Action will raise awareness of the power of the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) lobbying activities, and is timed to coincide with their annual lobby days in Washington, DC. Along with National People’s Action and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, ROC is coordinating a march to the Capitol, aimed at showing Congress “that we’re fed up with them favoring corporations over people.”
The NRA represents almost 500,000 restaurant businesses, and according to ROC, has an annual lobbying budget of US$65 million. Their recent lobbying priorities include maintaining the tipped worker wage at US$2.13 per hour – where it has been frozen since 1991 – and opposing federal and state attempts to implement health promotion policies, such as voluntary guidelines on junk food marketing to children. Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, Economic Policy Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies, recently pointed out that American taxpayers are effectively “subsidizing both the low wages of restaurant workers and the excessively high compensation of restaurant CEOs.” In the past two years, according to a recent IPS report, “the CEOs of the 20 largest NRA members pocketed more than US$662 million in fully deductible “performance pay,” lowering their companies’ taxes by an estimated US$232 million.” On the other side of the employment equation, Wood notes, “more than 50 percent of fast food workers depend on some form of public assistance.” Servers from the restaurant industry are twice as likely as other US employees to use food stamps, and three times more likely to live in poverty, according to ROC.
ROC’s current petition, asking Congress to stop accepting lobby dollars from the NRA, has more than 6,300 signatures and ROC’s petition to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act can be accessed here, and currently has more than 103,000 signatures.