This year the Golden Globes weren’t just about receiving or giving away awards. Hollywood celebrities used the platform to make statements and support causes close to their hearts. As a result, some them of them attended the ceremony with activists as their guests. One such celebrity was actress/comedian Amy Poehler, who was accompanied by Indian American restaurant industry advocate Saru Jayaraman.
Jayaraman, who is the co-founder and president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has been fighting for the rights of underpaid restaurant workers for more than a decade.
Her organization aspires to create better job opportunities and fair wages for women and for people of color in the restaurant industry. After 9/11, together with displaced World Trade Center workers, she co-founded ROC, which now has more than 18,000 worker members, 200 employer partners, and several thousand consumer members in a dozen states nationwide.
Attending the event in support of the Time’s Up movement, the two women, like most, were dressed in black.
In a Facebook post, Jayaraman explained that she, along with seven other gender and racial justice movement leaders who walked the red carpet with actresses who helped found the #Time’s Up initiative, “are shining a light on the millions of working women who face sexual harassment across all industries – restaurant workers, domestic workers, farmworkers, and more.”
Jayaram wrote that she was present at the event to talk about her organization’s One Fair Wage campaign that requires the restaurant industry to pay all its employees at least the regular minimum wage.
“The restaurant industry is America’s fastest growing economic sector; it’s also among its lowest paying,” according to the campaign. Tipped workers, it says, are paid a separate, lower minimum wage that starts at $2.13 an hour at the federal level — a rate that hasn’t changed since 1991.”
“We are calling for solutions that leave no woman behind – solutions like #1FairWage for tipped workers, which has the potential to cut sexual harassment in the restaurant industry in half,” she stressed.
In another post on Twitter, Jayaraman, who in 2014 was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House, and received a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015, wrote: “Here in honor of the women servers, bussers, bartenders, runners, cooks, & hosts who experience the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry in the country. #GoldenGlobes #TIMESUP #MeToo #1FairWage @OneFairWageNY.”
“Saru is my date tonight but really, she’s my partner in a much bigger movement,” Poehler told Elle at the event. “Not a lot of people go to the Golden Globes, but everyone has either worked in or eaten in a restaurant, and she’s working specifically on legislation to help reduce the amount of harassment.”
For Jayaraman, the solution to tackling restaurant industry harassment is clear. “It’s a majority female workforce having to live on customer tips to feed their families,” she told the publication. “You can get rid of that by providing these workers with an actual wage.”
Recently, Jayaraman was also invited as a guest on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” to discuss the importance of ‘One Fair Wage’ in the restaurant industry to stop sexual harassment and provide stability for working people.