Two dollars and thirteen cents an hour. That’s how much restaurants are allowed to pay people who wait tables. That restaurant worker minimum wage has not been raised in over two decades.
The rationale for this absurdly low rate of pay is that wait staff receive tips from customers. Often, they do, but sometimes they don’t. In some restaurants, tips are low because food prices are low. In other restaurants, slow business means that employees who wait tables could bring home less than 20 dollars for an entire shift.
Today in Washington D.C., Restaurant Opportunity Centers United is holding a protest at the corner of 17th Street and M Street, demanding that Congress raise the minimum wage for restaurant employees who depend on tips. The protest starts at 11:00 AM.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will be joining the protest. She points out, “Despite employing more than 10 million workers and producing more than $1.7 trillion in revenue each year, the United States restaurant industry is less than 1% unionized.”
In another move to support workers, Stein is organizing opposition to the new Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which is supported by both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Stein said of the agreement yesterday, “It’s a deadly assault on the freedom of Colombian workers to organize, as well as on the freedom of American workers from unfair competition from workers who make poverty wages because they are violently repressed… Let’s first see the murders stopped, the death squads prosecuted and convicted, the unions organized, and decent union contracts signed with the companies. Then we can talk about reducing trade barriers with Colombia… This trade pact is a jobs export pact.”