One Fair Wage

Ending Subminimum Pay in America

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Pub Date 02 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 02 Nov 2021

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Description

From the author of the acclaimed Behind the Kitchen Door, a powerful examination of how the subminimum wage and the tipping system exploit society’s most vulnerable

“No one has done more to move forward the rights of food and restaurant workers than Saru Jayaraman.” —Mark Bittman, author of The Kitchen Matrix and A Bone to Pick

Before the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the country, more than six million people earned their living as tipped workers in the service industry. They served us in cafes and restaurants, they delivered food to our homes, they drove us wherever we wanted to go, and they worked in nail salons for as little as $2.13 an hour—the federal tipped minimum wage since 1991—leaving them with next to nothing to get by.

These workers, unsurprisingly, were among the most vulnerable workers during the pandemic. As businesses across the country closed down or drastically scaled back their services, hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. As in many other areas, the pandemic exposed the inadequacies of the nation’s social safety net and minimum-wage standards.

One of New York magazine’s “Influentials” of New York City, one of CNN’s Visionary Women in 2014, and a White House Champion of Change in 2014, Saru Jayaraman is a nationally acclaimed restaurant activist and the author of the bestselling Behind the Kitchen Door. In her new book, One Fair Wage, Jayaraman shines a light on these workers, illustrating how the people left out of the fight for a fair minimum wage are society’s most marginalized: people of color, many of them immigrants; women, who form the majority of tipped workers; disabled workers; incarcerated workers; and youth workers. They epitomize the direction of our whole economy, reflecting the precariousness and instability that is increasingly the lot of American labor.

From the author of the acclaimed Behind the Kitchen Door, a powerful examination of how the subminimum wage and the tipping system exploit society’s most vulnerable

“No one has done more to move...


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Featured Reviews

Saru Jayaraman is the author of the acclaimed "Behind the Kitchen Door" and a longtime activist for the rights of food and restaurant workers. With "One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America." Jayaraman pointedly explores how the subminimum wage and tipping system exploits society's most vulnerable. This is a timely discussion given the current global pandemic's devastating impact on these workers - an estimated six million people who prior to the COVID-19 pandemic earned their living as a tipped worker in the service industry where they served us in restaurants and cafes, delivered food to our homes, provided our transportation, and often did our nails. They often did these things for little more than the $2.13 minimum tipping wage that has been in place in the U.S. since 1991 and they were, in hundreds of thousands of cases, the first to be discarded when the pandemic shuttered many of these businesses for months or longer. If you're hoping for a light and breezy book that entertains along the way, Jayaraman's "One Fair Wage" may not be the one for you. Jayaraman means business and wastes very little time in diving in and staying in the meat of her material here. "One Fair Wage" is a relatively short read at less than 200 pages. Yet, it's a substantial read where nary a single word is wasted. Jayaraman explores the history of the subminimum wage and tipping system and then spends a good majority of "One Fair Wage" sharing vivid, powerful, and occasionally heartbreaking stories while tying these stories into cultural, economic, political, and historical realities. Jayaraman is unflinchingly honest, though it should be noted that "One Fair Wage" is an accessible read that clearly and concisely lays bare the inadequacies of the nation's social safety net and minimum wage standards. With "One Fair Wage," Jayaraman shines a light on workers who are often left out of the fight for a fair minimum wage - people of color, many of them immigrants; women, who form the majority of tipped workers; disabled workers; incarcerated workers; and youth workers. I will admit that I wish more attention had been addressed to disabled workers, in particular, who often toil away in sheltered workshops where their efforts are rewarded with a cents on the dollar compensation that would be laughable if it wasn't so exploitative. Jayaraman early on ties in the current system to its early slavery roots and, indeed, economic slavery is very alive and well in the United States. "One Fair Wage" is, at least in my estimation, a primer for this important discussion. I can't help but feel like this is the foundation upon which Jayaraman builds her activism and fight for restaurant and food worker rights. "One Fair Wage" is an invitation to join the fight and offers a clear explanation why doing so is so vital for the individuals impacted and the economic system that ultimately demands more. "One Fair Wage" will leave you feeling better informed and educated along with feeling inspired to do what you can to make a difference for society's most vulnerable.

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