Support Living Wage for Restaurant Workers

Target: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Goal: Don’t grant restaurant permits and renewals to people convicted of wage theft

Wage theft — not paying fair wages for hours worked — is a common problem in the United States restaurant industry. It occurs both legally and illegally.  In all forms it represents one of least advocated workers’ rights issues because many restaurant workers are undocumented immigrants that are largely powerless. However, earning a living wage is an internationally recognized human right so any form of wage theft needs to end.

In a common legal form of wage theft, restaurant owners pay their workers less than minimum wage while claiming tips will make up the difference. “Tipped minimum wage” is a technically legal form of wage theft, but is no less harmful to workers and their families.

In addition, the restaurant industry often uses illegal means of wage theft as well, especially when employing undocumented workers. Because of the extreme imbalance of buying power, employers regularly fail to pay minimum wage or even pay their workers at all.

In Boston, wage theft is an oft-reported problem. And restaurant workers already make very little. Massachusetts Institute of Technology research estimated that a living wage in Boston is $12.65/hour for a single adult and $22.40 for a family of four. And yet, according to the US Department of Labor, dishwashers in Massachusetts made, on average, $10.29/hour in 2012.

Mandating livable wages will require nationwide, statewide, and local efforts. However, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh could lead the charge. Mayor Walsh made a campaign pledge for livable wages in Boston and he could make good on that promise by banning the issuing of restaurant licenses to convicted wage thieves. Encourage Mayor Walsh to make these reforms.


Dear Mayor Marty Walsh,

Wage theft is a serious and well-known problem in the restaurants of the city of Boston. This human rights violation disproportionately affects migrant workers and their families. It is simply unjust for anyone to receive less than a livable wage.

You pledged support for securing livable wages when running for mayor. It is time to act. I urge you to take the first step by banning all future restaurant permits to convicted wage thieves. This measure will use Boston’s large demand pool to decrease the incentive to steal wages.

I also encourage you to enact additional reforms and to push for state legislation to guarantee a livable wage for restaurant workers. Your actions could impact the rest of the nation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: David Parsons via Flickr

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