Food worker activist, author to speak in South Portland tonight

Food worker activist, author to speak in South Portland tonight

Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center and director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, will be in South Portland to speak at the Maine People’s Alliance annual Rising Tide Award Dinner tonight.

Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling will also feature Jayaraman on a panel from 1-2 p.m. this afternoon.

For more than a decade, Jayaraman has been organizing restaurant workers in cities across the country around labor issues, including phasing out the subminimum tipped wage and requiring paid sick leave for restaurant workers. She’s become an influential advisor to prominent chefs and restaurateurs such as Jose Andres and Danny Meyer while helping to transform America’s restaurant industry.

Jayaraman was recently profiled in the New York Times, and just released a new book “Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.”

Jayaraman rose to prominence helping to organize restaurant workers from Windows on the World, a restaurant on the north tower of the World Trade Center, who were displaced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Restaurant Opportunities Center, the organization that formed out of that work, has gone on to play a prominent role in the national labor movement.

Jayaraman’s visit comes as Mainers will be asked this November to vote on a referendum to raise the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. the referendum would also raise the sub-minimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 an hour to $5 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024.

Last week, the Maine Small Business Coalition revealed that over 500 small business owners have signed on in support of the campaign to raise the minimum wage and announced a Fair Wage Restaurant Week encouraging campaign supporters to eat out between June 13th and 19th at more than 50 Maine restaurants that publicly support the campaign.

The Rising Tide Award dinner is an annual event organized by the Maine People’s Alliance to celebrate progressive leaders in Maine and across the country. Other award winners this year include State Representative Ryan Tipping-Spitz of Orono; American Roots, a Portland-based small business; and People’s Action, a new, national alliance of progressive organizations. The dinner will be held at Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland and begins at 6pm. Tickets to the dinner are available for purchase online or at the door.

Photo via Flickr/UUSC.

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