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Restaurant Union Member: 'Tipping is a Horrific Legacy from the Days of Slavery'

WASHINGTON – House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called on Republican congressional leaders to support a gradual federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2024.

“That would give nearly 30 percent of Americans a raise and this has the support of 191 members of the House and Senate,” Scott said at a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill to mark the eighth straight year without a minimum wage hike. “It’s $7.25 now. We’re going all the way to $15.”

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) said it’s wrong that eight years have gone by since the last time Congress voted to raise the minimum wage.

“That doesn’t make sense. Other people are getting raises. Other people are getting raises but people who are working hard, young people, older people, people with disabilities, this bill cuts across all of America,” she said. “Now is the time to raise the wage.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said he is “proud” of the “raise the wage” and “fight for $15” activists fighting to push Congress to support a $15 “starting wage” for themselves and future workers.

“We don’t want to just be sticking with a minimum, right? We are just talking about starting people at $15 and then up from there, right? Up from there because do you want a minimum car? Do you want a minimum boat to float across the river? Do you want a minimum marriage? That means you all ain’t getting along too good,” he said.

“What I’m saying is we want to start people there and then move up from there and go on to paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid family leave and have a real solid life for people who work hard every day,” he added. “You guys are making the movement. I can’t wait to be there with you again. We are going to fight until we win.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) applauded the “warrior” activists for advocating in favor of a $15 “living wage” for every American.

“CEOs are benefiting from the American Dream; why not workers who are working each and every day to make this country great?” she asked. “We need to be a nation of good-paying jobs with benefits and a living wage for each and every one of you.”

While the “struggle continues,” Lee predicted that a $15 minimum wage would ultimately pass out of Congress.

“We want a living wage. Workers deserve a living wage in America. Right now, it is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation men and women are working full-time jobs and don’t even earn a livable wage. That is a shame and a disgrace,” she said.

Joseph Geevarghese, the director of Good Jobs Nation, said the “Fight for 15” movement has “always” been about a $15 minimum wage and giving every American the right to form a union.

“This isn’t just a fight for 15. It’s always been about 15 and a union. We’re not going to stop at 15. We are going to keep going until every worker has the ability to form a union and bargain for their own future,” Geevarghese said.

Trupti Patel, a member of ROC United who spoke at the press conference, said she’s heard many “horror stories” of sexual harassment from her fellow restaurant workers who keep quiet over fear of losing their jobs. She argued that restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips to earn a living wage.

“Tipping is a horrific legacy from the days of slavery. I know this nation is better than that. Why would we want to uphold something like that? So when you want to pay somebody $2.13 per hour, you still want to encourage all those bad mindsets,” she said.

Mary Campbell works in food service at the Pentagon and uses food stamps, Medicaid and section 8 housing assistance. Campbell said she earns $9.08 per hour and does not receive health benefits.

“I would tell Republicans that they are breaking Donald Trump’s words that promised to deliver more jobs and better wages for workers,” she said.

Campbell has called on Trump to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors.

“As CEO of the U.S. government, President Trump has the power to help workers right now. He could sign an executive order today requiring that all companies that receive federal contracts be model employers that provide living wages, benefits, safe working conditions and the right to organize,” she wrote in a column at The Hill.