The US restaurant industry is lacking in wages, not workers

The industry bemoans benefits, but workers don’t want jobs where pay is low and risks high, say Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, and author Mark Bittman


Guardian: Among the things Americans say they’re looking forward to most when pandemic-related restrictions end is “having dinner in a restaurant with friends”. But if the restaurant industry doesn’t support higher wages, there will be fewer restaurants for customers to return to.

There is an unprecedented shortage of job applicants for restaurant jobs, due to the changing restaurant industry. In a new survey this week by One Fair Wage of more than 2,800 workers, more than half (53%) reported that they are thinking about leaving restaurants. More than three-quarters of workers surveyed (76%) said they are leaving restaurants because of low wages and tips – by far the most important reason for leaving – and a slightly higher percentage (78%) said that the factor that would make them stay in restaurants is a “full, stable, livable wage”.

So this isn’t, as many industry representatives would have you believe, a shortage of workers. It’s a wage shortage that is racist and sexist in that it disproportionately affects women and people of color, and is a legacy of slavery. It is created by the narrow-sighted greed of the industry and its trade lobby, the National Restaurant Association, which has a history of fighting against fair wages since it was formed by white restaurant owners in 1919.

There are, in fact, plenty of qualified and experienced restaurant workers, many or even most of whom were laid off and left destitute over the last year. The National Restaurant Association is now, for the most part, a conglomerate of corporate chain restaurants and a powerful lobby.

As part of its transparent but sadly effective (until now, at least), propaganda campaign, members of “The Other NRA”, as many call it, have suggested that workers would rather stay home and collect unemployment than take jobs as they become available.


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  1. I always thought Simon Legree was a purely fictitious character. It appears Old Simon has been made incarnate in the form of the National Restaurant Association. How disappointed the NRA must be to be currently forbidden the use of whips. Maybe they can get that restriction lifted. Surely people who lobby for a $2.13/hr wage would not quail at using a whip.

  2. VT how could you post this load of crap. It said right from the git-go that it was a new survey. A survey that was taken when restaurants have been closed for quit some time because of COVID. I bet tips are real bad in an empty restaurant. Let’s interview those same waitresses when they’re pocketing all those tax free tips. I haven’t worked as a server in a restaurant but I have worked minimum wage plus tips. (Plus I ALWAYS ate. One of the perks of working in the food industry.) and tip added at least two dollars to my hourly. How could this boozo make these assertions on data taken during a pandemic.
    And it goes on to say the reason is racism. And sexually bias. Is EVERYONE jumping on that train. It’ll take a few years but once every ones virtuous head are pulled from their virtuous asses wake up. The blow back is going to be devastating.
    Did anyone there read this?

    • I read your opinion quit carefully.

      To think that another 10 dollars for each hour that you worked would have caused you problems I can only imagine that it must be difficult being you.

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