The annual NRN Power List is the definitive list of people setting foodservice trends today and shaping them for tomorrow. See the full list >>
Saru Jayaraman, president and co-founder, Restaurant Opportunities Center United
The ongoing battle between restaurant workers and their employers over wages promises to remain one of the foodservice industry’s most contentious issues for the foreseeable future.
Leading the wage fight is Saru Jayaraman, the president and co-founder of New York-based advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center United. Jayaraman, who is also director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has become one of workers’ leading voices in the industry.
She recently has been helping draw the connection between the low wages that restaurant workers earn and the wave of sexual harassment scandals that have arisen in recent years. Workers, especially women who are employed as servers, are particularly vulnerable, she said in a recent conference call.
“When they are forced to live on tips because their wages are so low … they are having to tolerate all kinds of inappropriate customer behavior in order to feed their families,” Jayaraman said.
One of ROC United’s key initiatives, dubbed One Fair Wage, seeks to eliminate the lower federal wage for tipped employees, currently $2.13 per hour. The wage effort has been gaining traction around the country as Jayaraman and ROC United have helped draw attention to the issue, and Jayaraman’s work got extra exposure when she was invited to walk the red carpet as a guest of actor Amy Poehler at the 2018 Golden Globes.