Oakland Restaurant Workers Again Call For Wages of $15 Per Hour

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NBC Bay Area

The demand for a $15 minimum wage again made its way to Oakland on Tuesday when a different group of restaurant workers spoke out about the issue. 

Outside Kingston 11 Cuisine at 2270 Telegraph Ave. about 15 people gathered at 11 a.m. to celebrate the incoming U.S. presidential administration as well as to show their solidarity with restaurant workers. 

Some in the U.S. are still entitled to only $2.13 per hour plus tips. The demonstrators want restaurant workers to make $15 per hour plus tips. 

“We're celebrating in cities across the country that the Biden administration has heard us loud and clear: Essential service workers have held up our country during this pandemic, and we're not going anywhere until we get the full, fair wages that we need," said Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, a coalition advocating for the end to sub-minimum wages for restaurant workers in the U.S. 

"They've demonstrated that they've heard us by including the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, in the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill announced last week. Now we need Congress to deliver," she said. 

Tuesday's modest-sized group was part of demonstrations across the country in places like New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston. 

Just last week in Oakland, McDonald's workers demonstrated to demand $15 per hour in pay. 

Jayaraman said a pay increase for tipped service industry workers is long overdue. 

Tipped service industry workers are "mostly women and people of color, who are facing unprecedented rates of housing and food insecurity, unemployment and poverty," she said. 

“It is time to restore the soul of our country, and that includes the heartbeat of our economy: independent restaurants, our team members, and our communities," she said. 

Khalid Kaldi, lead organizer for California for One Fair Wage, placed the blame for the sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers on the National Restaurant Association, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. 

Kingston 11 Cuisine co-owner Adrian Henderson said the restaurant industry is still operating on a "subhuman wage." 

"It's important to change that narrative," he said. 

In the 1930s and '40s, a server could support their family on the wages they earned. 

As a restaurant owner, he supports the effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for restaurant workers. He asked why restaurant owners wouldn't want to raise their workers' wages.

Customers are "going to support what you stand for," he said. 

He's sensitive to the need to avoid charging customers too much. He wants residents to be able eat at Kingston 11 Cuisine. 

The restaurant, which has been in business for eight years, pays its new servers $14.75 per hour depending on experience. Servers with more experience may earn $16 to $17 per hour.

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