Media that empowers working people – that's how we build a More Perfect Union.

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

Ideas

Have a story to tell or idea to share?
Email [email protected]
© 2021 More Perfect Union Action

Together we can build power for working people.

We’re asking questions that really matter, and telling the stories of people who really need to be seen and heard.

You can support our work by donating today.

Amount

Make It Monthly

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

The NRA You’ve Never Heard Of Is Blocking a $15 Minimum Wage

You may not have heard of the National Restaurant Association, but it’s likely your member of Congress knows exactly who they are.

It has been twelve years since the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25—the longest period America has gone without raising the minimum wage since it was established in 1938. Even worse, the paltry $2.13 federal minimum wage for tipped workers has not changed since 1991. The corporate lobbyists at the National Restaurant Association are one of the primary reasons millions of American workers have not received a raise in years.

You may not have heard of the National Restaurant Association, but it’s likely your member of Congress knows exactly who they are. For years, “the other NRA” has been one of the most powerful industry groups in Washington, spending more than $2.5 million annually on lobbying. Their representatives work overtime to obstruct legislation that would improve the lives of working people, including measures that would eliminate the gender pay gap, guarantee sick leave, and restrict marketing junk food to kids. In 2017, they helped kill a rule that would have provided workers an extra $1.2 billion in overtime pay.

The National Restaurant Association bills itself as representing local restaurants, but it is bankrolled and driven by large global corporations like McDonald’s; Denny’s; YUM! Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC; Disney; and Darden Restaurants, the owner of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Capital Grille. The CEOs of these companies rake in millions every year, while their workers make minimum wage—or even less.

One of the National Restaurant Association’s biggest priorities is maintaining the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, a policy rooted in the legacy of slavery. Employers in the U.S. broadly adopted the practice of tipping after the passage of the 15th Amendment to avoid having to pay actual wages to newly freed Black workers. Later, this carveout became enshrined into law. While employers are technically supposed to make up the difference between a worker’s tips and the minimum wage, wage theft is rampant in industries with tipped workers and enforcement is challenging. As such, tipped service sector workers are twice as likely to live in poverty and rely on food stamps than the general workforce. The sub-minimum wage exacerbates racial and gender pay disparities, as 40 percent of tipped workers are people of color and more than two thirds are women.

In addition to flooding federal, state, and local governments with lobbyists, the National Restaurant Association pours money into political campaigns. They have contributed almost $16.5 million to both parties since 1990, ensuring lawmakers side with fast food CEOs over working people. While nearly 80 percent of their contributions go to Republicans, who more reliably oppose increasing workplace protections and rights, six Senate Democrats received campaign support from them in the 2020 campaign cycle—including Senator Kyrsten Sinema who received $10,600. The NRA’s lobbying power, combined with other forces in the big business lobby, are a big part of the reason the federal minimum wage has not budged for years even though there is widespread bipartisan support for increasing the minimum wage among the general public.

Despite the National Restaurant Association’s alarmist rhetoric that increasing the minimum wage will force restaurants to lay off workers, raise prices, and close up shop, there is little evidence that this is the case. Research suggests that fast-food chains can absorb the costs of an increased minimum wage without cutting employment or lowering average profit. Fast food executives and National Restaurant Association members even acknowledge they can afford to increase wages, with Domino’s Pizza CEO Richard Allison telling investors “we’ve been able to manage our way through a lot of minimum wage increases across the country.”

With their deep pockets and fear mongering tactics, the National Restaurant Association has been extremely successful in beating back policies that would increase minimum wage and eliminate the tipped wage at the federal, state, and local level. But working people have fought back. In 2012, the Fight for $15 campaign emerged, demanding a $15 per hour wage and a union so all workers can support their families and be respected at work. Workers, advocates, and high-road employers organize together across the country with the One Fair Wage coalition and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), continuing to push for higher wages, better benefits, and improved worker justice and equity standards across the restaurant and food service industries.

Even with the odds stacked against them, the movement has achieved some success: seven states and thirty-four cities and counties have increased their minimum wage to $15, and eight states have eliminated the sub-minimum tipped wage. And as the country reopens following the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of restaurant owners are recognizing that the status quo is inadequate and are raising their wages in order to compete for workers.

While individual localities and employers should be applauded for improving restaurant and food service workers’ wages and benefits, minimum wage workers need more to achieve a decent standard of living. The Raise the Wage Act would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and phase out the tipped minimum wage, increasing pay for 32 million Americans and establishing a more equitable economy. This is the bare minimum to ensure that workers are actually paid a fair wage—if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity since the late 1960s, it would be at least $24 per hour.

The federal minimum wage is insufficient by any reasonable measure. Our policymakers need to stop listening to industry lobbying groups that fight to keep pay low and instead trust workers, advocates, and evidence: we need to raise the minimum wage and implement one fair wage for all.

The Latest

Burn The Forest To Save It, Firefighters Argue
Read More
10,000 John Deere Workers Are Officially On Strike
Read More
Ohio’s New Election Maps Are So Rigged Even the GOP Governor Says They’re Illegal
Read More
CVS Workers Refuse To Settle For Nickels And Dimes
Read More
Working 120 Days Straight: Kellogg’s Workers Go on Strike to Protest Brutal Conditions
Read More
Netflix and Amazon Film Crews Expose Horrific Conditions On Set
Read More
The Inside Scoop On The Campaign To Primary Kyrsten Sinema
Read More
Amazon Worker Died After Being Assigned To COVID Testing Team
Read More
Voters Rage At Rep. Scott Peters For Selling Out On Drug Prices
Read More
DeJoy Slows Down USPS Mail Service To Speed Up Privatization
Read More
60,000 Hollywood Crew Workers Gear Up For First-Ever Strike
Read More
The Real Reason Grocery Prices Are Skyrocketing
Read More
Starbucks Tries To Crush Historic Union Drive In Buffalo
Read More
Exclusive: Tesla Employee Speaks Out On Rampant Racism At The Company
Read More
How Spotify Is Killing The Music Industry
Read More
Exclusive: Racist Slurs & Toxic Culture At Tesla
Read More
Meet The Democrat Helping To Destroy The Postal Service
Read More
Apple Is Behind One Of The Largest Thefts In History
Read More
How Iowa City Defeated Grubhub
Read More
A Frito-Lay Worker Was Electrocuted, Denied Medical Care & Stalked by Company Agents
Read More
How Fort Worth Activists Defeated the Dollar Store Invasion
Read More
Forced to Work 12 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week: The Dark Side of Frito-Lay
Read More
The NRA You’ve Never Heard Of Is Blocking a $15 Minimum Wage
Read More
How NYU Grad Students Won A Major Labor Fight On Their Campus
Read More
These Drivers Could Defeat Uber & Lyft With Their Own App
Read More
For Fast-Food Workers, the Pandemic Made a Bad Situation Worse. Now They’re Fighting Back.
Read More
A Modern Day Sweatshop: The Tesla Factory Secrets Elon Musk Doesn’t Want You To Know
Read More
Drivers Protest Uber & Lyft
Gig Workers Take On Big Tech in Massachusetts
Read More
Striking Alabama Coal Miners Put Their Lives on the Line
Read More
Fired By Elon Musk for Unionizing at Tesla
Read More
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Boosts Republican Assault on Democracy
Read More
The Real Deal: Mergers Fuel Job Losses
Read More
Republicans Wage War to Deny More Than 800,000 Disabled and Elderly Americans Home Care
Read More
New Poll: Majority of Voters Support the PRO Act and the For the People Act
Read More
Poll Finds Republicans Support Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax
Read More
The Dirty Secret Behind Dollar General’s Low Prices
Read More
Majority of Trump Voters & 65% of Americans Support Medicare Expansion
Read More
Workers rally for the PRO Act.
NEW POLL: Bipartisan Support for PRO Act in Arizona, Virginia and Other Key States
Read More
TV Networks Caught Airing Fake “Interviews” Scripted By Major Corporate Lobby
Read More
BREAKING: New Details Bolster Likelihood NLRB Will Overturn Amazon Union Election
Read More
Exclusive: Emails Show Amazon Pressured USPS To Install Illegal Dropbox During Union Election
Read More
NEW REPORT: Amazon’s Most Egregious Illegal Action To Bust The Union Organizing Effort
Read More
EXPOSED: The Major Corporations Funding Voter Suppression Efforts in Georgia
Read More