- Saru Jayaraman
president and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United. She walked the red carpet at Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards with actress Amy Poehler. Jayaraman is also the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Her latest book is titled Forked: A New Standard for American Dining. She is also the author of Behind the Kitchen Door.
- Rosa Clemente
Puerto Rican activist and independent journalist. She walked the Golden Globes red carpet Sunday night with Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon. Clemente was the 2008 vice-presidential nominee for the Green Party.
At Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood, actors embraced the #MeToo movement and called for gender and racial justice in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Eight actresses brought social justice activists with them: Michelle Williams brought #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; Meryl Streep walked the red carpet with Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Shailene Woodley was accompanied by Suquamish Tribe member Calina Lawrence; Emma Stone brought tennis champ and LGBT advocate Billie Jean King; Susan Sarandon brought Puerto Rican media justice and former Green Party vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente; and Amy Poehler’s guest was Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. For more, we speak with Rosa Clemente and Saru Jayaraman.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
“Time’s Up!” That was the message at last night’s Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood, where the actors embraced the #MeToo movement and called for gender and racial justice in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Eight actresses brought social justice activists with them: Michelle Williams brought #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; Meryl Streep walked the red carpet with Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Shailene Woodley was accompanied by the Suquamish Tribe member Calina Lawrence; Emma Stone brought the tennis champ and LGBT advocate Billie Jean King, who Stone portrayed in the film Battle of the Sexes; Susan Sarandon brought the Puerto Rican media justice activist, former Green Party vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente; and Amy Poehler’s guest was Saru Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center.
We’re joined right now by Rosa Clemente and Saru Jayaraman, after a very long night, I am sure. Rosa Clemente’s latest project is—she’ll talk all about it—”PRontheMap.com”:http://pronthemap.com/. And Saru Jayaraman is the director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. Her latest book is titled Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, author of Behind the Kitchen Door.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Saru, let’s begin with you. Talk about your experience last night at the Golden Globes, certainly a breakthrough night in so many ways.
SARU JAYARAMAN: It was incredible. It was electric. And it was especially moving for me to be with Amy Poehler, because she actually worked in the restaurant industry, in which I organize, for many years. She experienced a lot of the things that the women in our industry experience, and was able to really let the media know that there are very clear policy solutions to getting rid of harassment in our industry, which really impacts—our industry actually really impacts even the women in Hollywood, because one in two Americans, like Amy and many celebrities, worked in our industry in their youth.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what it was like in the room, the whole approach, the theme, #MeToo, so many people wearing that. Talk about, you know, something you may have watched on TV before, or maybe you never did, and, as well, we just heard Oprah Winfrey’s speech describing her own breakthrough experience.
SARU JAYARAMAN: I saw so many people moved. And it wasn’t just in the room, outside of the room. I can’t tell you the number of people in Hollywood and outside of Hollywood who said that this was the most important moment of their careers, that so many people in Hollywood told me that the Golden Globes never meant as much, or anything at all, until last night. And I think, for women outside of Hollywood, the women in the restaurant industry, domestic workers, farmworkers, women in Puerto Rico, women all over, last night was also incredible because it was women standing together, across so many different sectors and places and, you know, situations, to say, “Enough is enough, and our power is collective, and we’re going to, as Oprah said, see another horizon.”
I mean, in our case, last night actually wasn’t just about Hollywood. It wasn’t just about women wearing black. It wasn’t just a show of solidarity. In fact, in our case, last night—because of last night and everything last night represents, we’re seeing real policy change in our industry. We’ve been fighting for many years for One Fair Wage, which is the elimination of the lower wage for tipped workers, which really is the source of harassment in our industry, because you’ve got a mostly female workforce living on tips, having to tolerate all kinds of inappropriate customer behavior. And you can cut that in half. Our research shows you can cut that in half by getting rid of that lower wage for tipped workers, because women actually then get a wage and don’t tolerate, you know, harassment for tips. And actually, as a result of the movement and the moment and last night, Governor Cuomo in New York has suggested that he will move forward to eliminate lower wages for tipped workers in New York. Now, we have to make that happen, but wow! What an extraordinary thing that women coming together, it’s not just about wearing black, it’s not just about an awards show, but it could actually result in policy change for millions of the lowest-wage women in the United States. And that is historic. That’s historic.
AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Clemente, talk about how you got involved with the #TimesUp movement, what your experience was last night, going to the Golden Globes with Susan Sarandon.
ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, first, we have to say that if it wasn’t for Mónica Ramírez from the Farmworkers Alliance, and the Farmworkers Alliance writing a letter to Hollywood women, letting Hollywood women know you’re just not actresses, you’re also workers, and there’s this entertainment industry where you’re exploited, as well, and you’re subject to sexual violence, none of us would have been there, because Mónica and them wrote that letter and then reached out to Tarana Burke of #MeToo, and then Tarana Burke reached out to the rest of us, and that’s how we got there.
I think it’s critically important also to uplift actresses of color that were not nominated, because you don’t get into the Golden Globes unless you’re nominated, like America Ferrera and Tracee Ellis Ross and Ava DuVernay and so many women of color who are actresses, who also suffer from violence and racial injustice in that industry, who wanted to also make sure we were there. You know, so, of course, because Susan Sarandon has been one of the most left, radical actresses or advocates in that peer group, me and Susan know each other, especially through our mutual work and political leanings in the Green Party.
You know, so, obviously, as a Puerto Rican, it was an interesting moment, because I knew most of my people in Puerto Rico could not see me, because they don’t have power. And it was also a good moment, because—
AMY GOODMAN: In a lot of senses of the world—in a lot of senses of the word, Rosa.
ROSA CLEMENTE: —the energy was—it was very overpowering, in this sense, that every person in that room, that we know have access and power to something and resources that can help us take these movements to another level, were very serious. And there were many women who people would assume because of their visibility and their perceived power that have never been affected by violence, and the amount of hugs and gratitude and thank-yous that we got shows that we have a shared empowerment at this moment. And it was fantastic.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what some have described as this elite group, obviously, Hollywood? Even if the pay grade, for example, is different between men and women, still women make much more, obviously, than the women you represent, Saru, in the restaurant industry, than the people who are in crisis right now, Rosa, where you just were, in Puerto Rico. But how Hollywood can set a tone, can change the climate, can really shape mores in America? Rosa, the importance of Hollywood?
ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, look, you know, even at the end of the day, these are people that financially are multimillionaires and part of what, you know, our movement and our people have rightfully deemed the 99 percent. I think this is going to take a lot of conversations about how we talk about capitalism and what that means when everything in the society is monetized. With that said, #TimesUp has raised $16 million, and all that money will go to those, particularly mostly women, who don’t have any money to pursue any type of case, any type of reparation and damage that has been done to them, and to have lawyers to represent them.
I also think it’s important that people understand this, right? It is Hollywood, but there’s levels of inequality in Hollywood. And I really think people need to know these names of actresses that have spoken out about Harvey Weinstein for over 20 years and were some of the most targeted, that, I know from conversations, have felt marginalized from this group, like a Rose McGowan, an Annabella Sciorra, a Mira Sorvino, a Rosanna Arquette. You know, and that’s something that these women are going to have to, with our support, more advocate for themselves. But the first group of women, who I just named, who came out around Harvey Weinstein were the ones that have most been affected in this sense. Most of them have not worked in a decade. Most of them have not worked in 15 years, because they were some of the first ones to speak out. And also they were some of the ones that were subjected to rape, not only once, but twice.
Salma Hayak was there. And it was powerful to see her, and it was powerful to talk to her, in the sense that even with all the power and money that she has, it was only through the #MeToo movement and through the work of social and racial justice activists, like all of us, that she felt it was her time to speak up.
So, there’s a lot of nuances to it. And at the end of the day, #TimesUp is also going to have to support all of our organizations. They’re going to have to support all of our work. But primarily, right now, they have to step up hard and set aside a fund, that would allow the women to not only have like reparations, some type of settlement, where they can live, if they’re never going to work in the industry again, but also that these women can have access to mental health services to get them through the crisis that they’re in right now.
AMY GOODMAN: I want—
SARU JAYARAMAN: Yeah, I was really pleasantly amazed, actually, how genuine the women in that room, that are part of #TimesUp, actually recognize their privilege, recognize their station in life and their situation and how different it is from other people, and continuously kept saying, you know, “If I have felt very disempowered, you know, afraid to speak up, imagine how restaurant workers and domestic workers and farmworkers and so many other women around the world feel. How could they possibly speak up?” And yet, like you said, I mean, the leverage that this group has, they recognize their privilege, which is why they were so willing to extend it to us, in an incredible moment, to actually leverage that situation and privilege for power for all of us.
It’s so funny. I mention that, because of this moment, Governor Cuomo is moving, is talking about eliminating the lower wage for tipped workers, for 400,000 tipped workers in New York. And that’s obviously a long time in coming. We’ve been working on these issues for many years. But Amy Poehler said it well. She said, “We’re so happy to help unscrew a lid that you’ve been unscrewing for decades. We’re so happy to stand there with you while we take it off together.” That is what this moment represents. Yes, it is women with power, but women with power extending their privilege and their platform to other women, who also have—as Mónica Ramírez has said, from the farmworkers, “We have power, too. Farmworkers have power. Restaurant workers have power. It’s our collective power.” It’s the power of women who’ve been working on these issues for decades and decades, now standing together with women who have a platform, to announce #TimesUp, and we can actually make not just—we can not just dethrone individuals. We can not just come out and name our truths. We can actually create policy and structural change on these issues.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion with Saru Jayaraman, who’s president and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United, representing restaurant workers. Rosa Clemente is a well-known Puerto Rican activist, independent journalist, walked the Golden Globes red carpet Sunday night with actress Susan Sarandon. We’ll find out more about their work in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka. This is the theme song for Big Little Lies, the HBO series about domestic violence, which won four Golden Globes last night. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Yes, we are talking about the Golden Globes, and I want to turn to Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, who starred together, years ago, in Thelma & Louise. They introduced best motion picture drama at Sunday’s Golden Globes.
GEENA DAVIS: We fixed everything. So happy.
SUSAN SARANDON: Yeah, I don’t think we fixed quite everything, actually. It’s been 25 years. But tonight we’ve got all of these women standing up for each other.
GEENA DAVIS: Fantastic.
SUSAN SARANDON: And the men, too.
GEENA DAVIS: And the men. Yeah, these five nominees have agreed to give half of their salary back, so that women can make more than them.
SUSAN SARANDON: No, I don’t think that actually happened yet.
GEENA DAVIS: Oh, not that, either?
SUSAN SARANDON: But that’s a great idea. So, we’re still honored to present the award for best actor in a motion picture drama.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. And we’re joined right now by Rosa Clemente, who accompanied Susan Sarandon to the Golden Globes, and Saru Jayaraman, who joined Amy Poehler. Rosa Clemente’s latest project is PRontheMap.com. Saru Jayaraman is the director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. Her latest book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, author of Behind the Kitchen Door, as well.
So, let’s talk about what kind of progress has been made and what you are demanding now. We saw Tarana Burke, another of the activists who was invited to the Golden Globes. She also dropped the ball—actually, quite the opposite, but literally dropped that ball New Year’s Eve in New York, as the woman who, so many years ago, coined that term, “Me Too,” before it became a hashtag, as a sexual assault survivor, dealing with girls and women, understanding that when people were able to speak out, say their own names, address their experience, that it could help heal them and change the world.
Saru Jayaraman, talk about women in the restaurant industry. You mentioned Governor Cuomo introducing an initiative. But what has happened? And what do you see has to happen now?
SARU JAYARAMAN: Yeah. Well, right now, the restaurant industry is the second-largest and absolute fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy. It’s almost 13 million workers. One in 11 Americans—one in 11 women works in this industry. And yet it’s the lowest-paid industry in the United States.
And that’s largely due to the money, power and influence of a trade lobby called the National Restaurant Association, which I want to name, as we’re naming names—the other NRA, as we call it—because with all of the talk of sexual harassment and #MeToo, there’s been very little focus on the corporate actors that really are behind setting the standards on these issues. The National Restaurant Association has lobbied successfully, since slavery times, to keep the wages for tipped workers abysmally low.
The current wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. Seventy percent of workers who work on that ridiculously low wage are women. They’re mostly women working at IHOP and Applebee’s and Olive Garden and the Red Lobster, earning those ridiculous wages and seeing them go entirely to taxes, living on tips, having to tolerate the most inappropriate customer behavior, in order to feed their families on tips, and being told by managers, “Dress more sexy, show more cleavage, wear tighter clothing, in order to make more money in tips.” And in fact, right around the time we released this research on this issue of sexual harassment, in 2014, a new industry segment was recognized, called the “breastaurant,” which is not just Hooters and a company called Twin Peaks. It’s actually Olive Garden and Denny’s, where managers tell women, “Show your breasts, in order to make more money in tips.”
Now, this is not just millions of women who put up with this every day of their lives. It’s millions more young women, for whom this is the first job in high school, college or graduate school, like Amy Poehler, who are told, as young women, “You know, this is what you must do to make more money in tips, to be a good worker,” which has influence on them for the rest of their lives. It sets the standard for what is acceptable and tolerable in the workplace.
And so, what must happen is that we must get rid of this lower wage for tipped workers, because it is the source of the fact that our industry has the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry. And so we launched a campaign in 2013 called One Fair Wage, demanding that every state follow California—where we are now—and six other states that got rid of this system decades ago. California requires employers to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top. And in California, we see half the rate of sexual harassment as there is in New York and the 43 states with lower wages for tipped workers. And so, what we need is not just naming chefs and restaurateurs who have been bad on the issue. And honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What we need is policy change, One Fair Wage, to get rid of the lower wage for tipped workers.
So, Cuomo did announce that he would review the issue, that he would start the process to look at getting rid of the lower wage for tipped workers. And now, what the #MeToo movement calls for is that we actually see that happen in New York. This issue is on the ballot right now in Washington, D.C. We need the City Council to support the will of the people in Washington, D.C. And in Michigan, it’s going to be on the ballot for November 2018. And many more states are following. You know, this is a moment in which Hollywood is helping waitresses and, as we said, domestic workers and farmworkers see true policy change through organizing, through collective power, to actually see what we need.
I just want to add one more thing. You know, Trump is trying to move backwards on this issue. He announced a new rule last month, up for—you know, it’s open for public comment right now, to make tips the property of owners rather than workers. That would double the rate of sexual harassment, because it would make workers, who are already vulnerable to customer harassment, have to turn around and have a manager say, “What will you do for me in order to get your tips?” because managers will have the right to keep the tips. As Trump is moving backward, states have the power to move forward. And that is the kind of policy change—Cuomo actually enacting One Fair Wage, Michigan and D.C. passing One Fair Wage, many states following and getting rid of that lower wage for tipped workers, that’s what we need. That’s what the #MeToo moment could bring us. That’s what Hollywood standing with waitresses could actually effect: change for millions of low-wage workers in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this whole movement, that has been organized by actresses and directors and writers, #TimesUp, the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund has apparently raised something like $13-14 million, that would go to subsidize legal support for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace. The fund is housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center. It’s an umbrella network. One of the groups within it is the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, led by Anita Hill, who is tasked with creating a blueprint for ending sexual harassment in show business. Now, Rosa Clemente, you’ve worked on so many different issues. You were the vice-presidential candidate of the Green Party with Jill Stein [sic]. And you’re now working on PRontheMap.com. But you worked in the hip-hop industry. Talk about the significance of, really, what Frances McDormand called a “tectonic shift” last night.
ROSA CLEMENTE: Yeah, I ran with Cynthia McKinney, was my presidential running mate.
And, well, look, I think also we have to be very careful when we talk about sexual violence, in all its forms. Not every woman is in the workplace, first and foremost, like my daughter, who’s 13 years old. Right? Because sexual violence is not just in a 9:00 to 5:00 or on a shift. It’s when you’re walking home. You know, growing up in New York City, it’s “Hey, Shorty, holler. Look at me. Smile. Why are you unhappy today?” I mean, you know, the amount of streets harassment alone that we have to go through before we get to work to be doubly harassed. We have to be very careful. And Calina Lawrence, 24 years old, a fierce sister, I mean, Standing Rock, has been doing work around indigenous women, cautioned us on that, because the indigenous women she works with are being disappeared when they’re in their reservation—and the violence that young women are facing, because young women are still not, quote, “in the workplace.”
So, within hip-hop, I want to say this. Black feminists and hip-hop feminists were telling everybody about people like Russell Simmons and other people like him for over 20 years. So, when Jenny Lumet told her story about what Russell Simmons did, that might have been a surprise to some people, but that was not a surprise to many of us women in hip-hop. There’s a reason Joan Morgan, in 1999, had to come up with a term within hip-hop called “hip-hop feminism,” because, by then, those of us as women engaging in hip-hop had already been dealing with assault—
AMY GOODMAN: Rosa, we have 10 seconds.
ROSA CLEMENTE: —violence, especially with men who would view us as critics and literally would get in our faces and threaten to hit us, hit us and marginalized us within hip-hop. So, the industry—
AMY GOODMAN: Rosa, five seconds.
ROSA CLEMENTE: —right? Like, Russell and some others that I won’t name—all I’m saying is that this runs the gamut. This runs the gamut from 5 years old to 65 years old, from the South Bronx to Beverly Hills.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank Rosa Clemente and Saru Jayaraman. Both attended the Golden Globes ceremony last night in Hollywood.
Happy birthday, Clara Ibarra!