Prominent activist to talk $15, #MeToo with tipped workers in St. Paul

Saru Jayaraman

A leading voice in the nationwide campaign to improve wages and working conditions for restaurant workers will meet tomorrow with tipped workers fighting for a $15 minimum wage in St. Paul.

In a 7 p.m. presentation at the St. Paul Labor Center, Saru Jayaraman will examine the connection between efforts to raise the minimum wage and the #MeToo movement to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. The event is free and open to the public.

Jayaraman is co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center and director of the University of California-Berkeley’s Food and Labor Research Center. An advocate of one fair wage for hospitality workers, Jayaraman walked the red carpet at the Golden Globes last week with Amy Poehler, one of several actresses who invited #MeToo activists as their guests.

Jayaraman’s visit to St. Paul reflects growing momentum in support of a citywide $15 minimum wage. Minneapolis put a strong $15 ordinance on the books last year, and St. Paul’s newly elected mayor, Melvin Carter, made $15 a rallying cry during his 2017 campaign.

A key question elected officials will face as they craft a minimum-wage ordinance is whether St. Paul, like Minneapolis, should establish one fair wage or carve out a subminimum wage for tipped workers, known as a tip penalty.

Restaurant industry groups fought hard for a tip penalty in Minneapolis, serving up doomsday predictions of layoffs and restaurant closings if servers’ wages increase. The same arguments already are surfacing in St. Paul.

Jayaraman’s work, meanwhile, has exposed the tip penalty’s troubling impact on working conditions in the restaurant industry. Tipped workers in two-tiered minimum wage states experience sexual harassment at nearly double the rate of their counterparts in states like Minnesota with no subminimum wage.

Learn more about the Jan. 17 event, RSVP and invite others to attend on Facebook. The St. Paul Labor Center is located at 353 West 7th Street.

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