Capitol Hill staffers divulge how a cutthroat workplace with low pay and lots of bad bosses shape their lives

Capitol Hill staffers
Congressional staffers sample entries at the annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Capitol Hill on April 09, 2019. Some staffers scout for free food at Hill events to save money.

  • Insider has been reporting on how low salaries and workplace issues impact Congress’ staffers.
  • Some staffers’ salaries were so low, they qualified for income-assisted housing or took second jobs.
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently announced a higher salary cap for senior staff.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

They may walk the halls of Congress in neatly-pressed suits and help their bosses write important legislation, but their bank accounts tell a different story.

Entire paychecks eaten by day care expenses. Vending-machine ice cream for dinner. Hundreds of dollars going to a decade’s worth of credit-card debt. Relying on income-assisted housing to keep a roof over their head. Meanwhile, no formal human resources department exists to mediate workplace and salary issues, or properly handle toxic bosses. Instead, employees are expected to conform to a culture of silence around bad behavior, despite Congress offering several resources for staff to utilize.

Capitol Hill staffers, who are paid starting in the $20,000s, work demanding jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the country. For years, advocates have pushed for Congress to raise their salaries so that talented aides seeking better pay didn’t head for the revolving door.

On August 12, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, announced that she was raising the salary cap for senior aides to $199,300. That mean’s they’ll finally be able to make more than rank-and-file members, who still earn $174,000 annually. Decoupling staffer pay from members’ salaries, so they could get paid more, is a move long sought by good government groups and advocates within Congress.

For several months, ahead of the Speaker’s announcement, Insider has covered Capitol Hill workplace and salary issues. Most recently, Insider asked current and former congressional staffers about how far their paychecks got them in Washington, DC. We received an outpouring of responses from staffers at all levels who felt compelled to speak up about what they considered a practice that hinders diversity, favors hires from privileged backgrounds, and drives talented minds to lobbying shops.

Their salaries ranged from $30,000 to $85,000 – but even the staffer on the higher end confessed that his entire paycheck gets eaten by childcare. You can read the full story here:

Be sure to check out Insider’s additional reporting on Capitol Hill workplace issues:

Do you have a tip about Capitol Hill workplace issues to share? Bad bosses, toxic offices, or questionable behavior toward congressional staffers? Email congresstips@insider.com, or message 1-202-567-7343 on Signal, and we’ll keep you anonymous.

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A Michigan restaurant owner relies on friends to pick up shifts because she can’t find enough workers to wait tables: report

waitress New York coronavirus
The hospitality sector is shedding jobs.

  • A Michigan restaurant owner is asking friends to wait tables because of a labor shortage.
  • Without enough staff, customer service is suffering, she told local news site WSBT.
  • She said it’s becoming harder to compete with bigger chains that offer bonuses and cash incentives.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Michigan restaurant owner is relying on friends to pick up shifts because she can’t find enough workers during the labor shortage.

Karina Fernandez, the owner of Maple Café in Edwardsburg, told local news site WSBT that service at her cafe is suffering because of the staff shortage. Friends who are helping say it’s impossible to give good service because there aren’t enough staff to wait tables.

It’s getting harder for small businesses like hers to attract workers, Fernandez said, because larger chains are offering cash incentives or bonuses.

“We’re competing with corporations that are giving incentives to start up to $1,000, I can’t afford that,” she said.

She was fully staffed before the pandemic began, but it’s been difficult to recruit workers since because people want more secure jobs, she said.

“Everybody’s too afraid to come to a job and then not have it in a couple [of] weeks or a week later,” she added. “Before the shutdown we were fully staffed and it was working right, but when the second shutdown happened everybody went to factories because they had something secure.”

Many food-service businesses are struggling to hire workers. The US jobs report from August showed that the number of people working in food services and drinking places dropped by 42,000 that month, the first drop since April 2020 and the largest drop overall across all nonfarm industries.

Some workers are switching careers to get higher-paying jobs, including in the retail and food-service sectors. For example, a demotivated dollar-store worker quit retail after an impressed customer told her to apply to a law firm, and now earns $3 an hour more, plus benefits.

Others are using the labor shortage to boost their careers. Keith Lane told Missouri newspaper the Springfield News-Leader that he’d used the labor crunch to rise up the ranks quickly at Domino’s, taking on extra hours to bring in more cash.

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Becoming the director of a Marvel movie still didn’t help Nia DaCosta pay off all her student-loan debt

Nia DaCosta
“The Marvels” director Nia DaCosta.

  • Nia DaCosta, director of “Candyman” and “The Marvels,” still has student debt.
  • She thought landing a huge movie would help pay off her $100k debt load, but that wasn’t the reality.
  • Actors and directors are typically paid less if they are not as well-known as their counterparts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Even Hollywood movie directors aren’t immune to the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis.

Nia DaCosta directed the newly released “Candyman,” making history for becoming the first Black woman to direct a movie that landed at #1 at the box office during its opening weekend. Her next movie, “The Marvels,” an installment in Disney’s mega-blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe, is set to come out in 2022.

But as she revealed in Audioboom’s Blank Check podcast, landing those huge directing roles still wasn’t enough to wipe out the $100,000 student-debt load she started with.

In 2019, New York Times columnist Julia Rothman was interviewing people on the streets of New York about their debt, and she ran into DaCosta, who called her student debt “a dull pain” but said if she landed a huge movie, she would be able to pay it all off “in one fell swoop.”

“Life if I get an ‘Avengers’ movie, my first big purchase will be to pay it all off,” DaCosta told Rothman.

Since that interview, DaCosta landed not one, but two, huge movies. Despite more or less actually getting an “Avengers” movie, she said on the Audioboom podcast that she still has student debt, and it comes down to pay equity in the film industry.

“I was like, I will only pay them off if I get a Marvel movie, and now that I have one, I’m like ‘Jesus, I’m still not going to pay them all off,'” DaCosta said. “Everyone thinks I literally paid them off when I got the job, which is not how you get paid through the [Directors Guild of America].”

Insider previously reported on the pay scale for movies in Hollywood and found that even if actors are starring in a film, they might get paid less than their better-known colleagues. For example, Gal Gadot, the star of “Wonder Woman,” only got paid $150,000, since at the time, she was not yet a big name in the industry. Given that DaCosta was not a well-known name when she first landed her directing roles for “Candyman” and “The Marvels”, the situation for her was likely similar.

And her plight with student debt reflects a burden 45 million Americans continue to shoulder. Insider has reported on the prison-like effects student debt can have on borrowers, with some feeling like they’re in a never-ending cycle of payments.

President Joe Biden has so far canceled $9.5 billion in student debt, but that’s just 0.6% of the $1.7 trillion of student debt in the nation, and borrowers are pushing for wide-scale cancelation to give them long-needed relief.

“I’ve paid back almost all of my loans, but I still owe the full amount,” one borrower previously told Insider. “It’s a never-ending cycle.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 reasons workers still aren’t making as much money as they would have in a pandemic-free world

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  • Aggregate wages and salaries continued to rise in July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Indeed economist AnnElizabeth Konkel said wages and salaries are “moving in the right direction.”
  • But the ongoing pandemic, and its impact on workers, is still being felt across the economy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

July brought some promising signs of economic recovery, with wages and personal income on the rise, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s latest release.

In fact, wages and salaries are approaching trends seen before pre-pandemic levels, according to economists at job site Indeed. It’s another promising sign as the Federal Reserve simultaneously hints that recovery is trending in the right direction.

“The wages and salaries are nearly back to their pre-pandemic trend – not there quite yet – but certainly moving in the right direction. And that’s really promising,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, told Insider.

That means that recovery isn’t quite complete. It’s not bad news, but instead shows some of the factors that are still impacting the economy – and the data provides clarity on programs boosting Americans’ incomes. For instance, the first round of Child Tax Credit payments made up over 1% of personal income in July, according to Indeed’s calculations.

The following chart, replicated from Indeed’s analysis of the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows aggregate wages and salaries were closer to pre-pandemic trends than they were in previous months.

Aggregate wages and salaries were $10.25 trillion in July. As seen in the chart, that means wages and salaries were only 0.8% below the pre-pandemic trend in July. In June, wages and salaries were 1.4% below the pre-pandemic trend.

As the US continues to recover, here are three things that are still impacting the economy.

(1) Despite a glimmer of hope this summer, the pandemic is still raging

“The number one reason why they’re still below that trend and haven’t met it is that we’re still in a pandemic,” Konkel said.

Delta cases have been surging across the country, and, in some cases, shutting down schools and return-to-office plans. Workers are returning to work quicker in more vaccinated areas. Caregiving is one major factor that’s kept parents from returning to the workforce in a meaningful way, or from furthering their careers (and salaries).

“There is still concern about the Delta variant and the question of what happens going into the fall, going into the school year, the Delta variant colliding with the school year,” Konkel said.

(2) The labor market is in a transition period

“I think that we’re going through an adjustment period. Labor market recovery certainly is not an off and on switch,” Konkel said.

So far, the labor market is a mix of both very hot – with job openings high and wages skyrocketing as workers quit en masse – and still filled with millions of unemployed workers. That’s why narratives of a labor shortage are complicated; some employers are certainly having difficulty hiring, but workers are still staying back for a multitude of reasons. Or they could be suffering from a mismatch in open roles and their own skillsets.

“There’s so many moving factors right now. Take a step forward and think about the individual job seeker, and that so many people are facing so many different things right now,” Konkel said.

(3) September will bring more clarity on what will come next

Konkel said we should look towards September to see what happens next with the labor market, because schools will reopen, federal unemployment benefits will wind down, and the country may start seeing the result of increased vaccination rates. Importantly, the data release from today reflected July – when the Delta variant was just beginning to take hold.

“I think that’s where we’re going to get more clarity and like, okay, is there a labor shortage or is this just like childcare factors,” Konkel said.

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Fast-food chains are trying to convince loyal customers to work for them by offering free food and discounts during the labor shortage

Applebee's 2
Applebee’s offered free appetizers to everyone who came for interviews during its national hiring day in May.

  • Some fast-food chains are trying to convert customers into staff, an Outmatch executive said.
  • Amid the labor shortage, they are offering free food to potential hires, Kelly Ann McGrath said.
  • Applebee’s, for example, offered free appetizers to applicants during its national hiring day.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some companies like fast-food chains are offering free food and discounts to convert customers into new hires during the labor shortage, a hiring executive said.

“A lot of our restaurant clients have been using their current customers as folks that they want to passively recruit to,” Kelly Ann McGrath, vice-president of client success at Outmatch, told Insider.

McGrath declined to name specific examples. But fast-casual chain Applebee’s, for example, offered free appetizers to everyone who came for interviews during its national hiring day in May as it tried to fill 10,000 roles.

Read more: Experts reveal how Grubhub lost its first-mover advantage – and how things could get worse for the once-dominant restaurant delivery player

It’s not just fast-food chains offering perks like these to new hires.

Omni Hotels and Resorts is giving new employees three free nights at an Omni hotel of their choice. A hotel in Washington State, meanwhile, is giving staff $15 in bar credits per shift so they can get a free meal at its restaurant either during or after their shift. Outside of working hours, staff get a discount at the restaurant, too.

Offering additional discounts, free products, and gift cards in lieu of sign-on bonuses is “really attracting current customers, since they’re already loyal to their brand,” McGrath said.

She said this was a cost-effective way of recruiting staff and could also cut down the amount of training time needed because they’re already familiar with the brand. And their brand loyalty “could translate to employee retention, something restaurants can’t afford to sacrifice in such a tight labor pool,” she added.

Restaurants are struggling to find labor

Restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Starbucks are raising wages to attract new hires amid the current labor shortage. McGrath noted that this was mainly at larger companies.

Some are rolling out other benefits like free tuition, sign-on bonuses, and even free iPhones as they scramble to find workers.

“All companies are vying for the same talent,” McGrath said.

A pizza chain franchisee in Iowa even said that he’s asking his general managers to poach workers from rival restaurants. “Everything is fair game” in the scramble for labor, he said.

The labor shortage, coupled with soaring ingredients costs, is causing some restaurants to slash opening hours and raise prices. A restaurant owner in Maine told Insider that ingredient shortages were forcing her to close her restaurant an hour early every day, while a New Jersey pizzeria owner said that he’d had to raise menu prices for chicken wings by more than 50%.

“A lot of our clients are just struggling overall,” McGrath said, adding that they had a much quicker turnaround for finding new staff, too.

Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington told Insider that the tight labor market was primarily driven by people leaving entry-level, hourly-paid, and customer-facing jobs, and that as a result the hospitality industry was being especially hard hit.

M Culinary Concepts, which says it’s the largest catering company in the Southwest, told Insider that it was finding it “extremely difficult” to find people to staff weddings, parties, and business events.

It said that M Culinary usually has more than 1,000 staff on its rota, including hundreds of seasonal workers, but that it was struggling to find enough drivers, cooks, warehouse workers, and event servers.

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Rising wages are doing more good than bad, Fed’s Powell says

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  • Rising wages aren’t contributing to decade-high inflation, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday.
  • Today’s trend is different and healthier than the wage-price spiral of the 1970s, he added.
  • The comments echo remarks from President Joe Biden, who’s repeatedly praised the jump in worker pay.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wages are rising, but not to a degree that should concern economists, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday.

The months-long labor shortage has prompted some businesses to raise wages as they scramble to rehire. Average hourly earnings rose at an unusually fast pace through spring, and healthy job creation in sectors with the largest pay bumps suggests the raises are working.

Yet the increases have raised some concerns around how higher pay might boost inflation. Price growth hit the fastest pace since April 2008 last month, reflecting dire supply shortages and overwhelming demand in the US economy. Higher pay could further accelerate inflation by lifting consumer spending and leading companies to charge more.

Such a process can occur, but it’s not what the economy is experiencing today, Powell said in a press conference following the Federal Open Market Committee’s July meeting. The US faced a wage-price spiral in the Great Inflation of the 1970s as companies used higher prices to offset rising labor costs. Since wages have steadily risen alongside broader price growth, the current trend is more healthy than concerning, the Fed chair said.

“Wages moving across the spectrum consistent with inflation and productivity is a good thing,” he added.

The FOMC elected to hold interest rates near zero and maintain asset purchases of at least $120 billion per month. Powell hinted that participants discussed plans to taper the purchases, but gave little indication of when action would take place.

To be sure, the jump in wages is easily outpaced by the inflation uptick. On net, average pay has declined due to broadly higher prices. Minimum wage workers who haven’t benefitted from the jump are the poorest they’ve been in decades.

Economists also expect the leap in wages to be a one-off. It’s unlikely businesses will factor higher inflation into their wage-setting plans for next year, Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, said in June. The increase is more a “one-time releveling of low wages” than a permanent shift in workers’ bargaining power, he added.

That hasn’t stopped policymakers from cheering the gains so far. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said earlier in July that the administration isn’t worried at all about higher pay adding to inflation.

“I think steady wage growth is good for workers. The one thing that we are not concerned about is … inflation,” Walsh told Insider. “We’re still in transition, so we’re not concerned about that. So I think anytime we can push for higher wages – and the president’s been very vocal on this – that’s a good thing for people.”

President Joe Biden made similar remarks in June, saying employers should simply “pay [workers] more!” if they were struggling with the labor shortage. The pay hikes are a result of employees having a stronger bargaining chip now, he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 19-year-old fast food boss says he expects to lose half his staff in the next few weeks, as the labor shortage continues to hammer restaurants

A fast food restaurant manager wears a black t-shirt and baseball cap while sitting at a high table.
Cabrera said that he has matured quickly since taking on the general manager role.

  • Jason Cabrera, 19, is the general manager of Layne’s Chicken Fingers in Texas, earning $50,000 a year.
  • Cabrera said that his biggest problem is finding enough workers in the labor shortage.
  • He expects to lose 11 members of staff in the next few weeks as they go off to college, he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A 19-year-old manager of a Texas chicken restaurant told Insider that he expects to lose half of his staff in the next few weeks.

Jason Cabrera runs the Allen, Texas, branch of the Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant chain, which promoted teenagers to management roles because of a severe staff shortage. Cabrera, who earns a $50,000 salary, estimates that he’ll need to replace 11 of his 22 junior employees in the coming weeks, with many going off to college out of state.

The labor shortage was the biggest challenge he faces as the restaurant manager, he said.

Garrett Reed, CEO of Layne’s, told Insider in a separate interview that he would “usually have at least a handful of seasoned managers, people in their late-20s, early-30s” running his eight restaurants, but the labor shortage led him to promote three workers who are 18 or 19 to manager roles, including Cabrera.

Reed has found it “tough to compete” with places like Walmart and McDonalds, which can afford to offer higher wages, and many of his workers have left to join bigger companies, he said.

Read more: Leaked documents show how McDonald’s plans to win the 2021 chicken-sandwich wars. Here’s everything we know about the looming fast-food battle.

Cabrera took on the role a week after his 19th birthday in January.

He told Insider that he’s “huge on recruitment” and uses hiring service CareerPlug to find workers.

“I always refresh that page every day,” he said.

“I’m always looking for someone and there’s days I won’t get any, there’s days I’ll get five.”

In recent months, restaurants have struggled to find enough workers to keep up with customer demand, leading some owners to hike wages and offer large sign-on bonuses to entice employees.

Hiring appears to be picking up: Food services and drinking places added 194,000 jobs in June, accounting for more than half of all job gains in leisure and hospitality industries that month, per Labor Department data. However, three in four independent restaurants are still struggling for workers, according to a recent poll.

A fast food worker prepares fries for the deep fat frier in the restaurant kitchen.
Jason Cabrera told Insider that he expects to lose 11 members of staff in the next few weeks as they go off to college.

Cabrera insists a lack of staff has not led to a drop in standards. “I make sure when I do my interviews and whatnot, people know that I have high standards,” Cabrera told Insider. He said that he looks for staff who care about the quality of service, and work with urgency.

Cabrera’s annual earnings are far above the $9.50 per hour “learning wage” that Reed said his entry-level employees receive, and the $28,860 per year the average 16 to 19-year-old can expect to make in the US, per Labor Department data.

His salary doesn’t include any performance-linked bonuses general managers might receive at the end of the year.

Cabrera said that he has struggled in past jobs to be taken seriously due to his young age, but has embraced the responsibilities of his new role.

“Just knowing that anything that happens inside of that store is on me,” he said. “Anything that goes wrong, anything that goes right, it all comes back to me.”

Cabrera told Insider that he’s saving up so he can open his own Layne’s franchise. “I just want to see how fast I can get there,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chipotle soars 13% to an all-time high as digital ordering and return of dine-in customers push revenue to pre-pandemic levels

Chipotle Tesla
Chipotle is giving away a Tesla 3.

Shares in Chipotle soared as much as 12.95% to reach new highs on Wednesday as a bumper second-quarter earnings call showed the fast-casual chain returning to pre-pandemic activity.

Revenue came in at $1.89 billion, up 39% year-over-year and a hair above the analyst consensus of $1.88 billion. Chipotle opened up 56 new locations and closed five, capitalizing on a surge of digital sales, which grew nearly 11%, as well as a recovery in in-person dining. Almost half of all sales were digital.

The company also saw same-store sales, which excludes sales from new stores, jump 31% year-over-year. Same-store sales had tumbled at the start of the pandemic. Likewise, margins rebounded to 24.5%, driven by price increases and falling beef prices during the second quarter.

Chipotle made headlines in June for raising wages to an average of $15, in part to attract talent in a tight labor market. The company also raised menu prices across the board.

“We have had to move pricing in the delivery channel and on our menu,” CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC. “We’re very fortunate to have such a strong value proposition and to have this pricing power.”

Chipotle closed at $1,755.91 on Wednesday, up 11.5% on the day.

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Chipotle warns it could raise prices even further to stave off labor issues and supply chain struggles

Chipotle
Chipotle’s average meal went up by 30 to 40 cents.

  • Chipotle could raise menu prices again, it said Tuesday.
  • It already raised its prices by 4% in June.
  • Rising labor and supply chain costs are putting pressure on retailers and manufacturers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chipotle isn’t ruling out another price hike this year.

In a call with investors Tuesday, the burrito chain’s executives said it may still raise prices to offset ongoing and rising labor, ingredient, and supply chain costs.

“There’s still that possibility that we could take additional pricing action to fully close the gap,” CEO Brian Niccol said. “I just think there’s so much going on right now with inflation and the question about whether inflation is transitory or permanent. We’ve got labor inflation. We took a big move there. We’ll see how that shakes out. And now we’ve got the Delta variant as well. There’s just a lot of unknowns.”

As for timing, CFO John Hartung said it would take months to get the full picture of inflation currently affecting the US economy.

“Let’s see what happens to inflation, and let’s see what happens to the economy over the next several months, and we’ll make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time,” he said.

Chipotle raised its menu prices by 4% in June, shortly after putting its minimum hourly wage up to $15. This means that the average Chipotle meal now costs 30 to 40 cents more.

So far, consumers are responding well to these hikes, Hartung said. The chain is “seeing no resistance whatsoever” to price changes, he said.

This is reflected in the sales numbers. Same-store sales at the burrito chain were up 31% in the most recent quarter versus the quarter before as dining-in sales picked up as customers gradually return to normal life.

With ongoing uncertainly around labor and supply chain woes dragging on, many retail chains and manufacturers are having to raise prices to offset these expenses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June Consumer Price Index showed that prices surged 0.9% from May. The highest month-over-month change since April 2008.

Chipotle has also not been immune to labor pressure facing restaurants and other services industries. In May, the chain raised its average wage to $15 an hour and announced plans to hire 20,000 workers.

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I’m a millionaire businessman who was arrested for protesting with restaurant workers. We demand better wages for the employees running our economy.

wage protest
  • What our economy is experiencing is not a worker shortage, it’s a wage shortage.
  • Our economic recovery is stalling because wages have been frozen for a decade.
  • It’s time we give America’s tipped workers the pay increase they deserve. Our countries financial future relies on it.
  • Brian is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and the co-founder of The Delta Fund.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the US transitions into the recovery phase of the pandemic, tipped workers across the country are leveraging their strength in numbers and sending a clear message to the restaurant industry that they should be paid what they deserve.

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is a direct legacy of slavery that has long contributed to some of the highest rates of sexual harassment across any industry. It’s time policymakers take action to ensure one fair wage nationwide.

On May 25, I joined restaurant workers in downtown San Francisco as part of a nationwide wage strike to demand an end to the sub-minimum wage and a full, fair living wage nationwide. We engaged in civil disobedience to call attention to the ongoing injustice that tipped minimum wage workers are forced to endure every day, and were arrested by SFPD as a result.

As a wealthy white man, my experience being arrested was likely more comfortable than the conditions many of our nation’s tipped workers face every day. 70% of women working as servers, bartenders, or other roles in the food services industry say they’ve dealt with sexual harassment from their employers, coworkers or customers. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues and made working conditions worse for vulnerable employees.

Now, with our country facing an unprecedented hiring shortage, especially in the restaurant industry, it is slowing our economic recovery. Hard working Americans simply don’t want to risk their lives for poverty wages any longer. It’s important that allies in California, which is already a One Fair Wage state – a state that requires all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top – with a stronger restaurant industry to prove it, join this fight.

I am a successful business leader, a former executive, and now an investor in old and new businesses across the United States, so I know what a good investment looks like. I’ve done the research and seen for myself how ending the sub-minimum wage and enacting a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top is not only good for restaurant workers, but for owners and customers as well. Pre-pandemic, the seven existing One Fair Wage states have higher restaurant industry growth and even higher rates of tipping. Even now, though all restaurants have struggled mightily in the face of COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants in One Fair Wage states have on average seen less decline in their number of open businesses in the hospitality industry.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from the heads of the corporate restaurant chains that have long been fighting against raising wages. On call after call, these CEOs have not only said that a higher minimum wage for all workers doesn’t hurt their business, they’ve also admitted that it’s actually better for business.

The CFO of Denny’s, for instance, said on an investor call that California raising its minimum wage has helped the chain outperform there versus the rest of the country. Understandably, that’s led to a shareholder revolt against the company’s continued lobbying against a $15 minimum wage. If companies like Denny’s admit that One Fair Wage is good for their bottom line, they’re violating their fiduciary duty by spending millions of dollars lobbying against fair wage laws.

That’s why our protest in San Francisco started outside Denny’s downtown. We need to hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and the low-wages they’re still paying our brothers and sisters across the country.

The bottom line is that the federal government has already bailed out restaurant owners to the tune of over $28 billion over the last year and a half. It’s time for the federal government to give restaurant workers the same attention, and mandate that they must be paid what they deserve.

The House has acted. Now, we need the Senate to pass the full Raise the Wage Act, which would end subminimum wages for tipped workers and make a $15 minimum wage the law of the land.

As a business executive and investor, I know that what’s good for people is good for business. We’re a consumer-driven economy, and putting more money in the hands of workers is essential to driving demand. On the flip side, smart business leaders know that inequality is bad for the economy and bad for business. With the pandemic driving more profits and government bailouts into the hands of the ownership class while impoverishing and bankrupting workers, we’re all going to end up worse off unless a drastic change is made.

Restaurants don’t have a worker shortage, they have a wage shortage. That’s why I stood in solidarity with restaurant workers and was arrested alongside them in their nationwide wage strike. It’s time we demand better for everyone. Call your representatives and let our leaders know that we demand a just and thriving economy, and therefore we demand giving all workers a living wage.

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