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Citing controversy over ServSafe, Hakeem Jeffries is said to reject National Restaurant Association contributions

A labor advocacy group said the House of Representatives' minority leader will give the campaign contributions he's received from the association to charity.
Hakeem Jeffries. / Photo: Shutterstock

A prominent U.S. congressman has said he won’t keep campaign contributions from the National Restaurant Association because of how the trade group generates some of its lobbying dollars, according to the labor advocate One Fair Wage.

The report has not been confirmed with the office of the lawmaker, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the current minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

One Fair Wage said it was told by Jeffries that he would donate the funds from the restaurant association to a charity.

The move would be a win for One Fair Wage in its effort to make a scandal out of the NRA’s use of proceeds from its ServSafe food-safety training course for lobbying. 

The labor group alleges that the association has pushed state and local governments to require some sort of training curriculum like ServSafe for restaurant employees. According to One Fair Wage, the NRA then sells the ServSafe training program to the workers for $15 a pop and uses the proceeds to lobby against mandated wage hikes, essentially using funds from workers to work against their financial interests.

The NRA has channeled ServSafe proceeds into its revenue stream for about the last 16 years. Lobbying funds are drawn from that one general pool.

Yet One Fair Wage successfully pitched a story on the situation to The New York Times last week. It was entitled, “How Restaurant Workers Help Pay for Lobbying to Keep Their Wages Low.”

A day after the story appeared, One Fair Wage announced that it was launching a food-safety training program to compete with ServSafe. The $10 course will be owned by an employee co-op being formed by the group. The proceeds will be used to lobby for increases in restaurant workers’ wages, One Fair Wage said.

On the same day, two ServSafe graduates filed a federal lawsuit against the NRA, alleging they’d been fooled into paying money that was then used to lobby against their interests. Among other things, the action asked that any employee who paid for ServSafe be reimbursed their $15 and that none of the program’s proceeds be used for lobbying.

On Thursday, One Fair Wage published a list of U.S. senators and congressmen who have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA.

On the list are 51 senators and 167 members of the House, One Fair Wage said. Jeffries was low on the ranking by contribution size, far behind the House’s No. 1 recipient, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was given $45,000.

The biggest recipients in the Senate were Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and John Thune (R-S.D.)

“Any elected official who claims to care about workers should immediately reject National Restaurant Association lobbying money, and return those stolen funds to the workers fighting to raise wages for all Americans,” Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, said in a statement. “While he was only a minor recipient of NRA funding, we thank Minority Leader Jeffries for his leadership and pledge to return this stolen worker money.”

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