Our Work

One Fair Wage works to advance policy, drive industry change, and shift the narrative in order to ensure that all workers in America are paid at least the full minimum wage from their employers. We are organizing service workers, employers, and consumers to advance local, state, and federal policy requiring One Fair Wage – a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top for all workers.

Why One Fair Wage? 

The service sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the United States economy, but also the lowest paying. The restaurant industry includes 7 of the 10 lowest-paying jobs in the country. In fact, people who work in the industry are twice as likely to need food stamps as the rest of the US workforce, and three times as likely to live in poverty. The sector’s low wages are due to the money, power, and influence of a trade lobby called the National Restaurant Association (“The Other NRA”) which has lobbied since Emancipation to maintain a subminimum wage for tipped workers – a literal legacy of slavery. The Other NRA’s lobbying has resulted in a federal minimum wage for tipped workers today of $2.13 an hour and in tipped workers in 43 states receiving a subminimum wage — these workers include not only restaurant servers, bussers, hosts, bartenders, but also workers in nail salons, hair salons, car washes, airports, and parking lots. And now app-based companies like InstaCart, DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft are also pushing for subminimum wages for their employees, arguing that their customer tips should count toward their workers’ payments. Subminimum wages are also paid to workers with disabilities, incarcerated workers, and youth workers in most states. One Fair Wage is calling for ‘No Worker Left Behind;’ that every person who works should be paid at least a full, fair minimum wage from their employer. Seventy percent of tipped workers are women. Since a living base wage is not guaranteed, and women are instead forced to depend on tips, restaurant workers report experiencing the highest rates of harassment from customers, co-workers, and management of any industry. The EEOC has targeted the restaurant industry as the single largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with a rate FIVE TIMES higher than any other industry.

Our Accomplishments 2019 – 2022

  • Prior to 2019: Policy Victories: We passed One Fair Wage on the ballot in Maine (2016) and Washington, DC (2018), and in the legislature in Michigan (2018), after collecting 400,000 signatures to put One Fair Wage on the ballot. Legislatures overturned each of these victories due to lobbying from the National Restaurant Association, but these victories prove that all different kinds of voters in all different types of states support One Fair Wage. Voter engagement with low-wage worker voters in Michigan in 2018 using One Fair Wage as a motivating issue through a peer-to-peer voter engagement model resulted in a 300% voter turnout increase among low-wage worker voters.
  • 2019: One Fair Wage, Inc and One Fair Wage Action are launched : In 2019, the US House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and end the subminimum wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities. This vote represented the first time since Emancipation that either house of Congress moved to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers. With this momentum, we realized that winning One Fair Wage would require a much bigger, broader effort, so we launched One Fair Wage and One Fair Wage Action (501c4)..
  • 2020: All Subminimum Wage Workers Convening: In February 2020, we convened the nation’s first gathering of workers from all 9  subminimum wage worker sectors, including tipped workers (restaurant workers; nail salon and car wash workers; parking and airport attendants, tipped gig workers); workers with disabilities; youth; and incarcerated workers. Workers from all these different sectors unanimously voted to convene under the banner of One Fair Wage – a full, fair minimum wage for anyone who works in America.
  • 2020-2022: Launched Relief Programs: In March 2020, we launched two pandemic relief programs totaling approximately $30 million: 
    •  The One Fair Wage COVID-19 Service Workers’ Relief Fund, which ultimately raised $22 million to provide cash relief to service workers. More than 270,000 workers applied for relief and One Fair Wage was able to organize these workers as members and leaders of One Fair Wage in digital town halls, live press events and actions, and in research reports to voice their needs and concerns and desire for policy change to raise wages and end subminimum wages in the service sector.
    • The High Road Kitchens program, launched with governors and mayors in 7 states (CA, IL, MI, NY, MA, WV, PA), which provided $8 million through a public-private partnership to hundreds of independent restaurants, mostly BIPOC-owned, who were willing to: undergo training to raise wages and equity; transition to paying One Fair Wage; and provide 500 free meals to their community. One Fair Wage was able to organize these ‘high road’ employers to join RAISE, our ‘high road’ restaurant association that now includes over 2000 members nationwide.
  • 2020-2022 – Conducted Groundbreaking Research to better understand “The Great Resignation”: Throughout the pandemic, drawing upon surveys and interviews with the 270,000 workers and 2,000 owners in our base as well as government data, we have published more than 50 reports on the needs and conditions of restaurant workers and owners throughout the pandemic.
  • 2020: Mobilized Restaurant Workers to Vote, With Successful Outcomes: In summer and fall 2020, we worked with over 1,000 volunteers, to communicate with thousands of workers who had applied to our relief fund about how voting in November 2020 would impact their wages. We contacted all 270,000 workers who applied for relief, greatly focusing our outreach on a peer-to-peer voter engagement program in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. As a result of these and other efforts, Presidential candidate Joe Biden named One Fair Wage as a key part of his campaign platform.
  • 2021: Raise the Wage Act Passed in the House: In 2021, President Biden included the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and end the subminimum wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities, in his very first COVID Relief Package. The Raise the Wage Act passed again in the US House of Representatives.. 2021:  Demonstrating the Challenge of Tipped Workers:   One Fair Wage held ‘Server for an Hour’ events to uplift the issue all over the country, in which dozens of Congressmembers and Senator Chuck Schumer stepped into the role of  servers in ‘high road’ restaurants to understand the needs and conditions of tipped workers. 
  • 2020-2021: One Fair Wage in Film and literature: In 2020, One Fair Wage was featured in two documentary films: Waging Change, a film focused on the One Fair Wage campaign produced by Peabody-Award winning filmmaker Abby Ginzberg, and The Great American Lie, a film featuring One Fair Wage as one of four vignettes on gender and the economy created by CA First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. In 2021, we held events around the country to promote One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman’s new book, One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America (New Press, 2021), which uplifted the stories of all the different sectors of subminimum wage workers. 
  • 2021-22: Uplifted Worker & Employer Voices in a Historic Moment: In summer and fall 2021, having produced groundbreaking research on the mass exodus of millions of restaurant workers due to subminimum wages and the resulting wage increases by thousands of restaurant owners nationwide, One Fair Wage found itself at the center of the “Great Resignation.” We were featured in the New York TimesCNN, and Time Magazine, to name a few, and One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman also appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO to speak about this historic moment. 
  • 2021-2022: Momentum in key battles: When we filed our ballot measure for One Fair Wage ($15 an hour plus tips) in Washington, DC, without any opposition- which means voters can vote themselves a raise on the June 2022 ballot. The Chair of the DC Council announced that the ballot measure would pass and that the City Council would not overturn it.
    • One Fair Wage legislation in Massachusetts advanced out of committee with a favorable recommendation to the Senate for the first time in six years. 
  • 2022: Scaling Our Work in a Historic Moment. With millions of workers leaving the industry and thousands of restaurants transitioning to One Fair Wage as a result, the opposition to wage increases has also declined. As a result, our supporters have encouraged us and promised significant investment to scale our campaign to meet this historic moment. One Fair Wage announced a new campaign to commit an initial $25 million to raise wages and end subminimum wages in 25 states by the United States’ 250th Anniversary (2026). Following the victory in DC and progress in Massachusetts, we have kicked off this campaign in New York, Illinois, and Michigan, where we have filed a ballot initiative for November 2022 that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and end subminimum wages for tipped workers, workers with disabilities, and youth. 



For general inquiries about One Fair Wage, contact info@onefairwage.org