New York State Police arrested Academy and Emmy award-winning actress Susan Sarandon and former lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ana Maria Archila, among more than a dozen advocates, Monday as part of a rally to fight for higher wages for tipped workers in New York.
Sarandon and Archila were among about a dozen activists with One Fair Wage to cause a disruption after rallying in the Capitol earlier Monday afternoon to eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers. Lawmakers passed the 2023-24 $229 billion spending plan last week and included increasing the statewide minimum wage to $17 an hour before indexing future increases to inflation.
Dozens of mothers and service workers from across the state rallied with lawmakers angry the wage increases in the latest budget do not include tipped restaurant workers — a workforce made up of mostly women and single Black and brown mothers.
Sarandon used to be a restaurant worker and single mother and said tipped restaurant staff must be paid a living wage to get the respect they deserve.
"I know how difficult it is ... they are very very important, need to be treated with dignity," Sarandon said of tipped restaurant workers. "They were essential, they were the ones who were left [during the pandemic] who kept the economy going."
The group then proceeded to the security entrance in the Concourse heading in to the Capitol, blocking entrances and pushing against State Police troopers in attempts to get arrested. Some police officers said they did not intend to arrest the activists they way they wanted. They started making arrests after more than 20 minutes.
A State Police spokesperson did not respond to a request for the total number of people arrested, their names, ages or hometowns.
The group is pushing for the Legislature to pass proposed legislation to establish a grant program for restaurants to afford raising wages for workers as soon as possible, and a business plan going forward.
“The fight for gender justice is the fight for wage justice. The fight for gender justice is the fight for worker justice,” sponsor Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said. "While New York State's efforts to raise minimum wages for some workers is a step in the right direction, it's unconscionable that subminimum wage workers are still being left out of those wage increases. We cannot and must not leave our tipped workers behind."
Restaurant owners and other leaders in the service industry push back against this proposal to eliminate the tip credit. They argue such abuse is wage theft that must be reported to the state Labor Department and proper oversight agencies.
"Eliminating the tip credit isn't what restaurant workers want," said Maggie Raczynski, an employee at J.J. Rafferty's in Albany County. "Lawmakers need to listen to thge hardworking servers and bartenders on the floor during service — not paid advocates who are pushing their own agenda. The tip credit allows me to earn well above the minimum wage all while supporting myfamily in a flexibe work environment."
Wages for tipped workers declined about 25% in 2016 when the statewide minimum wage was increased to $15 and did not include them, according to a recent One Fair Wage report.