At an event on Monday hosted by One Fair Wage — an organization seeking to end subminimum wages in the U.S. — Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su took on a new role far from her government position in Washington D.C.: New York City server.
The event, held at Baodega in New York’s Flatiron District, was meant to shine a light on the plight of servers who work for a subminimum wage and promote the elimination of it entirely — a position that Su and the Biden administration support.
“We’ve seen employers across the country respond to this moment by realizing that the wellbeing of their workers is critical to the wellbeing of their business,” Su said at the event.
“The Biden-Harris administration is absolutely committed to taking this moment we are in and ensuring that essential workers are valued, respected and treated as the heart of our economy the way we know them to be,” she said.
This wasn’t Su’s first time as a server, however. She held the position while in school and knows how tough it can be.
“I waited tables for summers while I was in school,” she said. “I never had to rely on it as a career. It is incredibly difficult work, and what we’ve learned through the pandemic is that essential workers who make our economy thrive, who make our economy strong, even in prosperous times, were not treated as essential.”
Biden supports the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 and eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers. It’s already passed in the House of Representatives, along with the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, giving restaurants another $72 billion in funding.
“Restaurant work and any work that relies on tipped wage necessarily puts workers in a precarious situation,” said Su. “It is a problem of economic security; it is a problem of being too dependent on a customer base, and there’s no way for a worker to know at the end of the day how much they’re going to earn. This leads to a whole series of insecurity and precarity that we should not have in our economy.”
Watch the Deputy Sec. speak in the video, along with One Fair Wage’s president Saru Jayaraman and NY Congress Member Carolyn Maloney.