NEW YORK - What do New York City restaurant workers want? More MONEY. That's what workers in some of NYC's top restaurants were saying when they lip-synced and danced to Barrett Strong's Motown classic "Money (That's What I Want").
Restaurant workers are sending a message to Albany lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to at least $9.00/hour when they do the budget this month. Right now, un-tipped workers make $7.25/hour and tipped ones make a base wage of $5.00/hr. Even working full-time, this comes out to poverty wages for 60 percent of food workers, as only servers and runners in the highest-end restaurants pull in big-time tips.
These stats are courtesy of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, a membership-based workers center organizing to improve wages and working conditions in the restaurant industry. ROC-NY was formed out of the surviving workers of the WTC's Windows on the World, and also started NYC's first worker-owned restaurant on Lafayette St., Colors, which is featured in the video. ROC-NY made the video with Strong Economy for All, a coalition of unions and community groups fighting for economic fairness.
"We've been working nine years now without a wage hike from Albany, and in this economy, many of us are really struggling," said Brenda McLean, a restaurant worker and a member of ROC-NY.
"Raising the minimum hourly wage to $9 and making sure it goes up as the cost of living goes up would go a long way toward lifting many of us out of poverty," she said.
"Not all of us work in $30-plate restaurants and bring home $400 a night in tips. Most of us are just getting by."
Photo: Following President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage during his State of the Union address, New York City restaurant workers are organizing for a higher New York State minimum wage. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)