The nonprofit One Fair Wage is working to move legislation and ballot measures to raise wages and end subminimum wages in 25 states by 2026, the 250th anniversary of the United States.
For more than three decades, the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant at US$2.13 per hour for tipped workers. But One Fair Wage, representing nearly 300,000 restaurant and service workers, 2,500 restaurant owners, and dozens of organizations, is working to change this.
Recently, the organization has seen “a historic moment of worker power,” One Fair Wage’s President Saru Jayaraman tells Food Tank.
One Fair Wage’s 25 by 250 Campaign kicked off in Washington D.C., where “we won a huge increase for tipped workers from US$5.00 to US$16.10 for a huge number of tipped workers in our nation’s capital,” Jayaraman says.
And in Chicago, Illinois the organization recently celebrated another victory when the city council voted to end subminimum wages, which will be phased out over the next five years.
“We’re finally winning,” Jayaraman tells Food Tank.
The win in Chicago was particularly notable for Jayaraman, due in part to the presence of the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) at the negotiating table. Businesses, she says, are taking action before policies change, recognizing the need to offer workers a livable wage. And in Chicago, the IRA found that roughly a third of their members were already offering employees better pay.
One Fair Wage is now looking ahead to future wins. Wage increases are on the ballot in Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona, Jayaraman says. “And what’s so exciting is that all of this policy victory is really the result of workers saying: Enough is enough, we won’t do it anymore. Employers have to raise wages to recruit staff.”
And Jayaraman believes there is no realistic alternative. At the same time that workers are advocating for fair pay, the National Restaurant Association is advocating for legislation that will weaken child labor laws—changes that would allow children as young as 13 to serve alcohol in bars.
“Either we work with our independent restaurants and support them to figure out how to raise the wage so adults can work sustainably in these jobs, or we have children working in bars. Is this real?” Jayaraman asks. “There’s really only one future for this industry, and it has to be providing life-sustaining wages.”
Listen to the full conversation with Saru Jayaraman on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about One Fair Wage’s 25 by 250 Campaign, how the COVID-19 pandemic helped fuel the movement for workers’ rights in the service industry, and how eaters everywhere can support the organization’s fight for fair wages.
Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.
Photo courtesy of Natasha T