By Dale J. Venturini
Last month, I detailed a bill in front of the Rhode Island legislature that seeks to completely eliminate the tipped wage. This bill, along with several others aimed against hospitality, has mobilized and unified our industry.
We are under attack by paid activists with no experience in the restaurant sector, and they are deliberately misrepresenting the facts related of our industry. They bring in non-RI residents to testify and try to paint a picture that is simply untrue.
They are creating a problem where none exists, claiming that tipped-wage employees do not make minimum wage; that in fact, they are making less than $3.00 an hour. Simply put, this is completely false. However, it is a great media sound bite — and using that as their foundation, they seek to change the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
This is part of a strong, coordinated, calculated and persistent campaign against us from out-of-state entities. The local head of this organization is on record stating that if they cannot achieve their agenda, they will focus on trying to shut our businesses down. Yes, you read that correctly. If they don’t win, it will be a victory if they can put 70,000 people out of work.
This organization does not let truth stand in the way of their agenda. They seek out and find disgruntled ex-hospitality employees to act as their mouthpieces, to relay a string of facts that are not based in any form of reality. And, unfortunately, some influential folks believe them as it’s often easier to believe the worst in people, rather than the best.
My Board of Directors and I just returned from the National Restaurant Association and American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. There, we faced picketing by an offshoot of this labor organization. They claim our industry doesn’t pay a living wage. They claim we are the bad guys who do nothing but take from employees. They are wrong. We are an industry of opportunity. We offer flexibility, on-the-job training, and the ability to climb through the ranks.
Just this week alone, I was proud to see the adult learners who graduated from our Hospitality Training Academy. Every single one of them graduated and received a job offer. Yes, each graduate was offered a position in our industry, and the ability to change the course of their lives for the better.
I think about the thousands of local unemployed and underemployed students and adult learners whom my organization and our partners train each year. I think about our member who owns a restaurant and who is also a medical doctor, who testified at the state house about providing free healthcare to his employees because he considers them his family. I think about how we successfully employ more than 70,000 folks, almost 10% of RI’s population. And, I think about the fact that our tipped employees average between $16.00-$22.00 per hour. I can sleep at night; I know the generosity and loyalty of this industry that I am fortunate enough to represent.
We are not broken; we do not need to be fixed.
A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Dale Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Ms. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.