NYC restaurant workers wage war on sub-minimum pay in Times Square

For workers who left their jobs to rally in Times Square on Tuesday, 12 years is a long time to toil without a pay increase.

The tired expression on the faces of the small group who gathered across the street from Olive Garden at 2 Times Square clutching picket signs was evident, the battle for fair wages has taken its toll. Even so, they continue to fight.

Workers are tired of being treated unfairly. Photo by Dean Moses

Chanting and thrusting their signs skyward, the restaurant workers say they are asking for a $15 federal minimum wage, along with tips.

According to One Fair Wage, the organizer behind the protest, the restaurant industry is seeing a mass exodus of employees due to their struggle to make ends meet. Female staff members also claim too many workplaces are rife with sexual misconduct, including women facing decreases in tips amid the pandemic.

One Fair Wage says the company’s tipping policy is a violation of Civil Rights due to its encouragement to racially discriminate and harass staff. 

Facing horror stories like these in addition to financial hardships have been enough to cause nine in ten workers to leave their positions in search of work elsewhere, One Fair Wage states.

“Olive Garden is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company and the world’s largest supplier of tip workers. We are suing Darden on the claim that the mere existence of the racist, sexist, sub-minimum wage is a violation of the Civil Rights Act,” said Hannah Shaber, lead organizer for One Fair Wage in New York. 

Signs read: “Will work for fair wages”Photo by Dean Moses

During the rally protesters stormed into the lobby of Olive Garden still clasping their signs reading “Will Work for Fair Wage” to present the manager with a lawsuit directed at the eatery’s parent company Darden Restaurants. The handful of workers who entered the building said the suit was on behalf of the thousands of workers who are struggling under the organization’s leadership.

“Workers are done, and that’s why so many Darden restaurants are struggling to find workers. We want to deliver the message: Either pay workers a full minimum wage with tips on top or we will not return to your restaurants,” Shaber said. 

Shaber continued, explaining that companies are claiming that there is a labor shortage, but she says adamantly that this is not the case, instead it’s due to workers who are tired and fed up with not being paid a fair, equitable wage. 

One Fair Wage slapped Olive Garden’s parent company Darden Restaurants with a lawsuit. Photo by Dean Moses

“We are saying that the sub-minimum wage violates the Civil Rights Act because of the racial inequity that comes as a result of it,” Shaber said.

amNewYork Metro reached out to Darden Restaurants for comment, and is awaiting a response.