Congresswoman Grace Meng donned an apron Monday at Wasabi Point, a restaurant on Woodside Avenue in Elmhurst, where she experienced being a “server for an hour,” bringing food and drinks to customers.
”I’m very honored to have been able to participate in ‘server for an hour’ today with One Fair Wage,” Meng said. “My district in Queens was at the epicenter of the pandemic and many businesses in the area still haven’t recovered. We need to pass One Fair Wage to help the industry recover from the pandemic and to thrive.”
The tour, with additional stops in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was meant to draw attention to the success of so-called High Road Kitchens, restaurants that participated in a pandemic-created program in which governors and mayors across the country, including in the five boroughs, partnered with One Fair Wage to provide grants to restaurants that committed to paying a full minimum wage with tips on top, especially during the staffing crisis. Workers and employers discussed the need to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. They asserted that better wages would encourage workers to return to the struggling restaurant industry as it navigates the “Great Resignation” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “High Road” tour was organized by One Fair Wage, a national organization of 270,000 service workers and 2,000 restaurant owners, to draw attention to New York state legislation S.808/A.2244, led by Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, which will raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage, and allow tips to be shared with back-of-house employees.
“Our mostly immigrant restaurant workers stepped up and made sure they were feeding the community when other places were closed,” Gonzalez-Rojas said after introducing the bill. “I’m so proud to be a champion on this issue. I represent a district that is 62% immigrant. Our immigrant workers deserve a living wage, a fair wage, One Fair Wage. I am so proud to have two high road kitchens in my district, people who are already doing the right thing. NYS should be leading in this effort. It’s a gender justice issue, immigrant justice issue and an economic justice issue. We have to get this done! I represent a district that has been so hard-hit by the COVID pandemic. It was the restaurant workers, mostly immigrant workers, that fed our communities when other places were closed. Our immigrant workers deserve a living wage, a fair wage — it is those workers who can best give back to their communities.”
According to a report from One Fair Wage, 50% of New York workers are considering leaving their jobs in the restaurant industry, with more than 90% citing low wages and tips as the primary reason.
“We are so grateful that Deputy Secretary Su is meeting with New York City workers across three boroughs to visit with responsible restaurant owners raising wages to recruit staff, and experience the lives of restaurant workers earning a sub-minimum tipped wage, including how they must often put themselves at risk just to earn enough tips to survive,” said Saru Jarayaman, president of One Fair Wage. “Dep. Sec. Su understands that this is unacceptable and that we must do more. These High Road Kitchens — where workers are paid a full minimum wage with tips on top — are proving that a better world is possible, one where both restaurant owners and workers can survive and thrive.”