PHOTOS: Workers hold minimum wage ‘birthday party’ inside Olive Garden

The Olive Garden in Center City was packed Wednesday afternoon with patrons enjoying a late lunch or an early drink.

“We’re here for the birthday party,” a group of people said to the hostess. The young woman waved them through to the bar area without question.

As waves of “partygoers” continued to inundate the eatery, staff soon realized the group – much it comprised of advocates with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia – wasn’t commemorating an anniversary for a friend.

They were calling to the 22nd “birthday” of the stagnation of the federal tipped minimum wage.

Wednesday marked the the fourth year that has passed without an increase in the country’s federal minimum wage, which sits stagnant at $7.25 an hour, and the 22nd year that’s gone by without a hike in the federal tipped minimum wage, which remains $2.13 an hour – $2.83 in Pennsylvania.

Though the party ended peacefully after activists sang a few rousing rounds of “Happy Birthday” inside the packed bar, they said they’ll continue to fight.

“The restaurant industry is a multibillion dollar a year industry,” ROC Philadelphia legal coordinator Sheila Maddali said.

“The industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy and the only industry that continued to grow during the recession. However, the restaurant industry is the lowest wage employer in the country.”

ROC estimates servers are three times as likely to live at or below the poverty rate as the rest of the U.S. workforce and use food stamps at double the rate.

They claim companies like Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants, Inc. – which also runs the Red Lobster and Capital Grille chains – together with lobbyist the National Restaurant Association, “set the industry standard by aggressively advocating against wage increases.”

Workers and activists are calling on legislators to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015, index the minimum wage to increase with inflation and boost the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full standard.

The national day of action for minimum wage increases reached all the way to the Capitol Wednesday, where elected officials gathered to urge Congress’ swift passage of the measure.

“We have to make sure that working families can keep up with the economy,” Fair Minimum Wage Act sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin said in a statement.

He noted between 2009 and 2012, rent has risen 4 percent, food is 8 percent more expensive, child care costs have grown by 9 percent, and public transportation costs for the average worker have risen 13 percent.

“Also, by increasing the minimum wage, we can give tens of millions of workers more money in their paychecks to spend at local businesses, increasing sales and boosting economic activity,” Harkin said.

minimum wage
Most Americans across all political parties support raising the federal minimum wage, according to a Hart Research poll.

Some stats

According to an Economic Policy Institute analysis, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would:

>> Boost pay for more than 30 million low-wage workers in the country.

>> Generate more than $32 billion in new economic activity.

>> Support the creation of 140,000 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand, which drives 70 percent of the economy.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.