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The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United's newly formed group of business owners to lobby in support of minimum wage increases met Wednesday with representatives to address a variety of issues that face their workers.

The group, called RAISE — Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment — is an alternative to the National Restaurant Association, which has been lobbying the government to not support the wage increases, said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of ROC United.

"For too long Congress has heard only from the National Restaurant Association — the other NRA — which represents corporate lobbyists in the restaurant industry," Jayaraman said. "RAISE represents the voices of small sustainable restaurant owners who make long term profits by providing livable wages and benefits to their employees."

RAISE, Jayaraman said, aims to support small and medium-sized business owners as they move toward the "high road" to profitability by raising business standard, including:

  • Livable wages, tipped and non-tipped.
  • Paid sick days.
  • Access to affordable health care.
  • Safe and healthy workplace.
  • Diverse and equitable employment.
  • Career advancement opportunities.
  • Responsible immigration reform and
  • Environmental sustainability.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), sponsor of the recently introduced Fair Minimum Wage Act, and WAGES Act sponsor Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) joined Jayaraman and several member employers to discuss the need to increase the minimum wage for all restaurant employees, including those who work for tips, and to raise standards in the restaurant industry by supporting sustainable and fair practices. Among the restaurant owners present were: Andy Shallal, owner of DC'S Busboys & Poets and Eatonville Restaurants; Teresa Ging, owner of Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique in Chicago, and Nathan Zion, owner of The Gorbals Restaurant in Los Angeles.

"I'm proud to stand with responsible restaurant owners to begin to change the conversation with the help of RAISE, because change happens when people of good faith and intentions come together to speak with one voice," said Miller. "And that message is clear: It's time to raise the tipped minimum wage, and it's time to raise the federal minimum wage. It makes sense, it's sustainable, and the higher wages go right back into the economy. Now let's get to work."

Rep. Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act would reconnect the regular and tipped minimum wage while raising both, stabilizing the restaurant industry just as it is projected to grow by 10.6 percent over the next 10 years, according to ROC. Raising the tipped minimum wage will help lift many restaurant workers out of poverty and provide a path to the middle class for millions of Americans, said Rep. Edwards.

"It is wrong that the workers who serve us do not earn enough to put food on their tables," said Rep. Edwards. "I am proud to join Ranking Member Miller, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and 100 business owners across the country to form RAISE and support employers who want to raise wages for their restaurant workers. The minimum wage should be tied to inflation — not just cost-of-living — and include tipped wages. I look forward to working with President Obama, my colleagues in Congress, and restaurant employers and workers who share in the common goal of fair wages for honest work."

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