As Mayor Bowser gets set to sign D.C.’s $15 minimum wage into law today, AR Squared captured some interesting audio that shows serious dissension in the ranks of the “Fight for $15” movement.
Asked about the new DC law, Saru Jayaraman – founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a key activist group behind “Fight for $15” campaign across the country, went off on the DC Council and explained that the movement lacks labor solidarity. LISTEN HERE:
QUESTIONER: Hi, thanks for taking my question. So, recently D.C. raised their wage to $15 an hour, but the law left restaurant workers at the same level. Now, labor groups backed that increase, so my question is you have all these restaurants standing with you, the labor groups kind of left you in the dust, why is that?
SARU JAYARAMAN: Don’t get me started (crowd laughs) I’ve been talking about this for the last 3, 4, 5 days, because we actually initiated the $15 fight in D.C. We led the ballot measure. We paid for it. We put it on the ballot, we got the signatures collected and at the last minute some people went behind our back and struck a deal with the city council to kill our ballot measure in exchange for 5 frickin’ dollars for tipped workers. And that is the kind of lack of worker solidarity that results in the fact that our labor movement is dying. It’s dying. And as long as we don’t think of it as a movement where we support each other and everybody stands up for one another, we’re going to continue to fail. It is sad. You are right that there are employers in this room and around this country willing to stand with us and go to Congress and say ‘we need to fully eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers,’ and yet there are some of our allies on our side of the table who would make a deal with the National Restaurant Association to throw tipped workers who are mostly women of color, the poorest women of color in D.C. under the bus. So that’s why I would ask them in Pennsylvania, do it the way California did it or the way Maine is going to do it. Labor isn’t like that everywhere, the labor movement is leading the initiative with us in Maine to fully eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers. At the national level, the labor movement has been so supportive. In California, the labor movement has rejected the system altogether, and they say 15 for everybody, So we can’t let some people, in some places, to strike deals – stop us or let us think that is the way it is everywhere, but we also cannot not call those folks and make them accountable for that kind of betrayal.
Despite opposition from Jayaraman’s ROC, the Mayor and City Council were still able to ram through this economically dangerous legislation. While this new law represents an additional challenge for businesses in the District, if tomorrow’s “scheduling” legislation is approved, it would create an economic environment that is hostile to private enterprise. DC businesses have already said that they’ll be forced to cut jobs under this proposed legislation, reducing economic opportunities to District residents who need them most.