New York, NY – Today, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and One Billion Rising released a new video called “The Time is Now,” featuring award winning actor, activist and V-Day Board member Thandie Newton, star of HBO’s upcoming series Westworld, and New York-based actor and ROC member, Chantal George. Director Sekou Luke is an independent artist who is a former restaurant worker and member of ROC.
The video is a direct and artful attack on the racist history of the separate, lower wage for tipped workers in the U.S. Newton describes the subminimum wage as an economic system rooted in the nation’s history of slavery that subjected people of color to different standards of governing employment. This legacy persist to this day in the form of a $2.13 federal tipped minimum wage.
Newton said of her participation in this video, “ I’m proud to be working with One Billion Rising and ROC to bring the nation’s attention to the racist history of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which forces millions of workers– more than two-thirds of them women–to endure widespread abuse and exploitation. It’s an enduring legacy of slavery, and it has to stop now.”
The two-tiered system of a separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers has left nearly 4.5 million working people across the country struggling to survive on poverty wages. The common misperception is that tipped workers are largely white men in their thirties, making six figures at a fine-dining establishment. To the contrary, they are overwhelmingly women and people of color, working at casual restaurants like Denny’s and The Olive Garden. Forced to rely on tips — and thus the whims of customers — to make ends meet, they disproportionately endure financial insecurity, sexual harassment, and discrimination.
Currently seven states — California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Minnesota and Nevada — have eliminated the tipped minimum wage, establishing One Fair Wage for all workers, and they have watched their restaurant industries soar. Furthermore, The White House and Department of Justice support One Fair Wage, as does the Democratic Party, which has included the elimination of the subminimum wage system in their official platform.
This video is being released in conjuncture with the launch of the fifth year of One Billion Rising global campaign, which will focus on and give increased visibility to the exploitation of women and violence against women in the workplace, and build global solidarity to demand an end to violence in all forms. The campaign will feature actions, art, and events that highlight unprecedented forms of labor abuse women face, focusing on economic and sexual exploitation.
“We are proud to partner with Thandie and ROC United in the creation of this video that we hope will illuminate the legacy of slavery which laid the groundwork for the exploitative wages and practices that women in the restaurant industry endure today. We hope this video will inspire everyone and anyone who has ever been served by a waitress to Rise in Solidarity to end exploitation towards restaurant workers and to demand One Fair Wage,” stated Eve Ensler, playwright, activist, and Founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising.
“Once the best kept secret in the restaurant industry, the racist origins of tipping in America is a story that must be told,” said Saru Jayaraman, ROC United’s co-founder. “In post-slavery America, tipping was viewed as a demeaning practice fit only for former slaves, whom business owners resented having to pay. Nearly two hundred years later, that rationale and practice — that tipped workers should rely on customers rather than their employers for a living wage — continues to persist, aided and abetted by the lobbying efforts of powerful restaurant industry giants like the National Restaurant Association. We must end this despicable legacy once and for all. We’re excited to partner with Thandie Newton and One Billion Rising to bring this important story to the world.”
Full Script Below:
VO Spoken by Thandie Newton:
There was a time…
When she put on her uniform with hope– with the promise of freedom and the possibilities it would bring.
She worked when she was sick because being ill meant no pay.
She served meal after meal to customers who assumed she was being paid.
She bit her tongue when they grabbed her and called her “sugar,” …“honey,” …“sweet thing.” use she knew she could be replaced and was always one complaint away from getting fired
There was a time… and for HER and millions of working American women that time is today. It is time to end the legacy of slavery,
It is time to end this inhumane subminimum wage for tipped workers.
It’s time to provide a livable wage for all workers, for all of us
It is time to RISE and provide ONE FAIR WAGE
We can do it together
THE TIME IS NOW.
About Restaurant Opportunities Centers United:
Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News), ROC United has 18,000 worker-members, 200 restaurant employer members, and several thousand consumer members in 15 states in the U.S., winning 15 worker-led campaigns, recovering $10 million in stolen tips and wages. Read more about Saru Jayaraman’s new book Forked: A New Standard for American Dining at forkedthebook.com
About V-DAY and One Billion Rising:
V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. Annually, V-Day benefit events are organized by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $100 million; educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Egypt and Iraq. www.vday.org
V-Day’s most recent campaign, One Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history. The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. Every February through 8 March, thousands of Risings take place in hundreds of countries across the world and within local communities – to show the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors of various forms of violence face. Visit www.onebillionrising.org.