All we're asking is a full wage with tips on top. [MUSIC] 70 Percent of tipped workers today are still women. They are women who suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the US workforce. In the restaurant industry, there are also women who work at IHOP, and Applebees, and Olive Garden. This impacts women Women for the rest of their life. [MUSIC] My name is Saru Jayaraman. I am the co-founder and President of the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, ROC United, a national organization of restaurant workers, restaurant owners and consumers working together for better wages. And working conditions in the restaurant industry. I'm also the director of the Food Labor Research Center here at the University of California, Berkeley. Workers in the restaurant industry are brilliant, creative, highly skilled They're incredible people. And so many of them are women struggling to feed their families. [MUSIC] Why should we care as women? We should care because here is the largest employer of women Paying women $2 and $3 an hour, the lowest wages in the country. Forcing them to live on tips. Employers should pay the people that work for them a fair wage so they can be protected against sexual Harrassment. [MUSIC] Thus creating the industry with the highest rates of sexual harrassment of any industry in the United States. And here's the thing, if this is the first job for half of American women, for our daughters, for my daughters, for many of your viewers This is the job that tells women what is acceptable and tolerable, legal, and ethical and normal in the workplace. It's a job in which because they're forced to live on tips. To feed their families in tips, they must tolerate all kinds of inappropriate customer behavior It's a job in which, as a young woman, the manager tells you dress more sexy, show more cleavage, wear tighter clothing in order to make more money in tips. That is how you'll be successful. Not by tolerating sexual harassment, but by going out and encouraging it. [MUSIC] IN 2013, we launched a campaign for One Fair Wage. Which is requiring the restaurant industry to pay the full minimum wage plus tips. So as I mentioned, the restaurant industry is the largest and fastest growing industry with the lowest paying jobs. That is because of the money, power, and influence of the trade lobby, the National Restaurant Association. California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska All require the restaurant industry to pay the full minimum wage plus tips. These seven states have higher resaurant sales per capita, higher job growth in the industry, higher job growth among tipped workers, and one half the rate of sexual harassment. We're gonne see this industry pay the full minimum wage Plus tips and cut sexual harassment in half. On behalf of all the celebrities who are working with us, the hundreds of thousands of workers who will benefit, we need one fair wage now. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] I've been doing activist work for a long time. And I've met many great Recognizes, and sorrow is to be the real deal, is the real deal. I met [INAUDIBLE] a couple of years ago after the 2016 election. And I was very impressed with the work she was doing fighting For one fair wage for tipped workers. You're so optimistic and you're so strategic. We're so lucky to be in the profession that we have. To be able to use our celebrity to raise the voices of people who don't often get heard. How else can we pay back the privilege that we have? So we have to hitch our wagons to a star like you. We will prevail. We will prevail. You know how I know that we will prevail? Because we've won so many times before. It was 9/11 that really changed everything. I was going to work when they anncounced that the World Trade Center has been hit. [NOISE] Very shortly after that day, I received a phone call from the representatives of the workers in the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center which was windows on the world. It was on the 107th floor of Tower 1. As a worker organizer, it was hard not to think about what was happening to the thousands of workers in that building. Asking if I would start a relief center in the aftermath of the tragedy for the 73 workers who died that morning, and the 250 workers who lost their jobs in that one restaurant and the 13,000 restaurant workers who lost their jobs in the months and weeks In weeks following the tragedy. I could see a world that I never saw before that was right in front of my eyes, workers in this industry struggling. I've been attacked by the National Restaurant Association for seventeen years. They have followed me around the country, they have setup attack organizations. They have got Congressional investigations into me and Rock. They put up my daughter's pictures on their attack website when they were babies. These days sometimes I have to go places with security because they are aggressive and do not want to pay their workers more than $2 or $3 Dollars an hour.>>We've been fighting for one fair wage for a decade and we're finally seeing that it's going to happen. [MUSIC] Welcome to RESTORE OAKLAND. Part of being a bad **** woman is not just actually fighting what needs Needs to change, but actually, envisioning and creating what should be, and that's what this building represents. It is the vision and the future that we want for the restaurant industry, and for our communities across the country. [MUSIC] Restaurant workers or anybody interested in moving up the ladder in the industry will be able to walk in, get free job training. Get free help with regard to their housing situations. When I go to the area and speak to people, I show them this building, and they're like, I'm so happy that there's Gonna be services that are for free for us. That's something that they didn't expect, they thought it was gonna be a gentrifying force. And so they're really excited about all of the things that are coming along. [MUSIC] My mom was born for this. Two little girls And it's wonderful reminder of why I do this work. She's always here for us but then at the same time she's out there helping everyone else. Mm-hm. And she's always being strong. I think they are learning that as girls and as women, they can do anything. That they have the power to change things. That there should be no barriers to what they can do. Why am I a badass? Cuz your are strong and you are brave and you help the world and try to make it a better place. We're a family committed to justice and as a family commited to justice What's happening in the world is not okay. We can't sit back and just watch it happen. We have to know what's happening and do something about it. [MUSIC]
If you've read Sweetbitter or ever worked in dining yourself, you know that restaurant workers often get the short end of the stick — and seldom have an HR department to lean on for help. Legal activist Saru Jayaraman, who kicks off InStyle’s new Badass Women video series today, won't sweep those poor employment practices under the table.
Having worked as a representative and organizer on behalf of immigrant workers for years, she noticed a particularly underserved demand among the thousands of restaurant workers who lost their jobs as a result of the 9/11 attacks and co-founded Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) to help them deal with wage and sexual harassment issues. “It was 9/11 that really changed everything,” she says in the video at top. “As a worker organizer it was hard not to think about what was happening to the thousands of workers in that building who were there just to make a living, just to survive.”
Protecting low-income restaurant workers has since become a calling for Jayaraman, who also teaches public policy as it relates to food at the University of California, Berkley. She is not afraid to stand up for workers, especially women, who make up the vast majority of minimum-wage employees. “Women of color are often labeled a bitch or difficult,” she says. “If what that really means is standing up for yourself and others, then I accept those labels with pride.”
Now, Jayaraman is helping to develop a 1800-square foot center for advocacy and free job training called Restore Oakland in Oakland, Calif. “Restaurant workers or anybody interested in moving up the ladder in the industry will be able to walk in, get free job training, [and] get free help with regards to their housing situation,” she says. “It is the vision and the future that we want for the restaurant industry and for our communities across the country.”
To learn more about Jayaraman and Restore Oakland, check out the video above and read our interview below.
Proudest progress: “Before [ROC United] came along, nobody even knew that workers were making the ridiculous [base] wage of $2 or $3 an hour,” Jayaraman says, explaining that many restaurants justify not meeting minimum wage with the assumption that servers make the majority of their paycheck from tips — except that workers don't always get to keep the full sum of their tips, some restaurants pooling tips to redistribute among their staffs. In April, Jayaraman's team won a huge victory, convincing Congress to pass a bill making tips the property of workers instead of the property of owners. That bill alone will affect some 7 million restaurant workers. But Jayaraman and ROC United are also working to raise workers' base wages altogether and protect them from sexual harassment. “The most rewarding thing for me is seeing women and other under represented workers like immigrants and people of color stand up and say enough is enough,” she says. “Time’s up! Enough is enough on being exploited.”
What makes a badass: “A badass woman is not afraid of the push back at the challenge, the obstacles, and the intimidations that are attempted when you try to stand up to those in power,” Jayaraman says. “I think if we are actually committed to change and we are committed to saying time's up, then we have to expect that those in power are going to push back and unless we’re really ready to confront those in power, nothing’s going to change.”
Overcoming obstacles: The biggest opposition Jayaraman faces comes from the National Restaurant Association, which represents the chains where the workers she represents are employed. “They’ve been lobbying for many years to keep the wage as low as possible,” Jayaraman says. “And since we’re fighting to raise wages and end sexual harassment they have attacked us for 17 years.” The association, Jayaraman says, has consistently tried its best to shut ROC United down most recently by trying to scare workers into believing that if their wages go up, their tips will disappear. “It’s absurd and ridiculous.” But Jayaraman continues undaunted. “I will be darned if my two daughters earn $2-3 an hour or are asked to wear tighter or sexier clothing in order to make more money in tips by the time they work in the industry.”
Self-reflection: “I make a lot of mistakes, but I’ve learned that I’m somebody who’s resilient, willing to improve, and not afraid to consistently challenge the status quo,” Jayaraman says. And she has, most recently by aligning her efforts with the Time’s Up initiative to further her fight for workers. “If I could challenge myself to be better then I think I can challenge all of us.”