Darden Restaurants Must Do Better

The Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California is proud to act as a partner to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers in working to win justice for restaurant workers in our state and across the nation.  Here is their latest report on what’s happening in the struggle for fair wages and decent working conditions at Darden Restaurants:ROCbannerIt’s a huge deal that all Los Angeles restaurant workers are likely to start getting paid a base wage of $15 an hour in the near future. For starters, California is one of seven states without a separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers, and the state is among the nation’s strongest in restaurant-industry growth, with $72 billion in sales last year and 11% workforce growth over the past two years.

California is also home to more than 100 Darden-owned restaurants. The Olive Garden parent company and full-service giant, Darden Restaurants, is the largest full-service restaurant corporation in the world. It easily employs the most tipped restaurant workers in the country, paying employees as low as $2.13 an hour — the federal minimum wage for tipped workers since 1991!
As a leading member of the National Restaurant Association, Darden has lobbied aggressively against worker-friendly policies, including minimum wage increases.

The fact that Darden operates more than 100 restaurants in California, and hundreds more in the other six states that have the same wage for tipped and non-tipped workers, is just one example of restaurants succeeding without using the subminimum wage to foist the responsibility of paying their employees onto customers. As Saru Jayaraman, co-director of ROC United recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We have to fundamentally ask ourselves: Who should be paying workers — the customers or the employers?”

Darden employees — through the Dignity At Darden campaign — are coming together to call on their employer to pay a living wage and treat them with dignity. This new video breaks down why winning #DignityAtDarden matters for working families like Juan’s, a current employee at a Darden restaurant in L.A. http://www.dignityatdarden.org/

dignityatdardent-shirt.jpegOne Darden worker reports that, due to Darden’s rock-bottom wages, “I had to get a part-time job to make ends meet. I regret it because I feel like I don’t know my three kids. They grew up and I didn’t get to enjoy them walking or talking. It hurts me that we have a distant relationship.”

Because of its size, Darden’s rock-bottom wages drag down the entire restaurant industry, making stories like Juan’s all too true for the millions of workers — cooks, dishwashers, bussers, hosts, servers, bartenders, and more — who are the backbone of the restaurant industry.

Because Darden employees believe that their company can and must do better — for their families, our communities, economy and our future — they are demanding #DignityAtDarden. It’s been fierce worker-led campaigns that are putting the demand for a living wage on the map for our elected officials and national media — L.A. restaurant workers were integral to winning a $15 minimum wage for their city.

It is only a matter of time before Darden employees win #DignityAtDarden. Please watch and share the new video from the #DignityAtDarden campaign: http://www.dignityatdarden.org/ For more information on Darden and the restaurant industry, go to Restaurant Opportunities Centers web site: http://rocunited.org/

For information on how you can get involved in the UU Justice Ministry’s efforts around living wage campaigns and economic justice, email economicjustice@chair.uujmca.org.

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