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PHILADELPHIA – July 11, 2019 — On Friday, leaders from the Black Caucus of both Pennsylvania House and Senate, including Senators Vincent Hughes (D-7th District), Art Haywood (D-4th District), Representatives Joanna McClinton (D-191st District), and Stephen Kinsey (D-201st District), Chris Rabb, (D-200th District), and Summer Lee, (D-34th District) along with Philadelphia area Congress members, will be working as “restaurant servers” for an hour in support of the federal Raise the Wage Act and One Fair Wage, Pennsylvania state legislative policy that would require employers to pay all workers, including tipped workers, a full minimum wage of $15 an hour plus tips. The US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Raise the Wage Act, a federal proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 and eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers, next Thursday, July 18, 2019. In Pennsylvania, Representatives Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) and Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) are the prime sponsors of state legislation to raise the minimum wage to $12 and eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers.

At Friday’s event, legislators will be highlighting the historic nature of the issue and the US House of Representatives vote. The subminimum wage for tipped workers is a legacy of slavery; the first tipped workers were slaves, paid nothing and expected to live on tips. The US House’s vote will represent the first time in US history that either house of Congress moves to eliminate the legacy of slavery. Legislators present, many of whom are leaders in the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, will highlight the importance of PA following the US House’s lead in eliminating this legacy of slavery in PA.

The event will start at 4:15 with a march from the Pennsylvania Convention Center to El Fuego Restaurant in downtown Philadelphia, where, at 4:30 p.m., state legislators will be trained to serve food and drinks to customers at the El Fuego. The legislators will also hear from actual restaurant servers and owners, and meet with members of the press and address how the Raise the Wage Act and One Fair Wage policy will improve the lives of thousands of workers, help professionalize the restaurant industry, and boost the economy of Pennsylvania.

Restaurant owners and workers will share their stories of the challenges with the subminimum wage for tipped workers, and speak about how a One Fair Wage policy will help reduce poverty, wage theft and sexual harassment in the workplace. The rate for tipped workers in Pennsylvania  has been stuck at $2.83 per hour, and the federal minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13, for nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the state minimum wage was last increased ten years ago to $7.25 per hour— one of the lowest in the country.

WHAT: Legislators “serving for an hour” at a restaurant in downtown Philadelphia to highlight the need for raising wages and improving working conditions for restaurant workers.

WHEN: Friday, July 12, 2019, at 4:15 pm to 5:30 pm

WHERE:

4:15-4:30 – March from the PA Convention Center to El Fuego

4:30-5:30 – ‘Server for an Hour” event, El Fuego, 723 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

WHO:  

Sen. Vincent Hughes, Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee

            Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-191st District

            Sen. Art Haywood, D-4th District

            Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-201st District

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-200th District

            Rep. Summer Lee, D-34th District

            Congressmembers (invited)

            Restaurant workers

            ROC Action members

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and President of ROC Action

BACKGROUND:

The restaurant industry has notoriously high rates of sexual harassment and wage theft and has shown an inability to self-police. To date, according to a recent ROC United study, the seven states — Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington— with One Fair Wage workers have half the rates of sexual harassment and significantly less wage theft.

Those states showed an employment increase of 20.4 percent between 2011 and 2017, as compared to 16.37 percent in subminimum wage states. The employment spike can be attributed to improved productivity, reduced turnover rates, and creating local stimulus in the economy.

Additionally, the seven states are also projected to experience the largest increase in restaurant sales (5.1 percent growth), as compared to 4.24 percent in subminimum wage states.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 75 percent of tipped workers consist of women, but they earn only 70 percent of what the wages their male counterparts make. For African American female servers, the disparity is even greater: they earn only 60 percent of what male servers overall are paid, costing them more than $400,000 over a lifetime.

This day of action in Philadelphia will be part of mobilizations nationwide organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers Action and a coalition of labor, women’s rights, environmental, immigrant rights, faith and other allied organizations. Restaurant workers and their allies, including elected officials, will be going to their state capitol to call on state and federal legislators to choose people over profits for big corporations.