Labor group targets Olive Garden's pay schedule

olive garden exterior

The union-like Restaurant Opportunities Centers United said it would hold rallies today at Olive Gardens in six major cities to push for an end to the federal tip credit.

The group said it has gathered 130,000 signatures on a petition that calls for requiring restaurants to pay servers a jurisdiction’s standard minimum wage. Currently, most states allow restaurants to pay servers only $2.12 an hour if the rest of the area’s minimum wage is collected in the form of tips.

ROC wants employers to pay servers at least $7.25 an hour and allow them to keep whatever they collect in tips. That arrangement, currently in force within states like California, often means servers collect as much as $35 or $45 an hour.

The group, which is funded in part by union organizations, said it chose Olive Garden as its target today because the chain’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, is the nation’s largest employer of tipped servers.

The restaurant industry maintains that discontinuing the tip credit is unnecessary because servers are already pocketing far more than the minimum wage collected by their co-workers in the back of the house. That disparity has made it difficult for many establishments to staff their kitchens.

Olive Garden and Darden have been frequent targets of ROC. In 2012, the labor group mounted a campaign called Dignity at Darden to push for higher server wages and such benefits as paid leave.

Darden’s other brands include Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and Yard House.

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