Mr. Livesay Goes to Washington: Two Days at the RAISE Summit

A few weeks back, I traveled to Washington D.C. with over fifty other restaurateurs, managers, organizers, workers, and diners to attend the annual two-day RAISE Summit focusing on the state of the restaurant industry and the One Fair Wage Campaign.

This year I got to moderate a panel on how to implement One Fair Wage, and it was a great experience. The panel consisted of managers and owners from Kingstown 11 Cuisine in Oakland, CA, Colors Restaurant NYC, Vimala’s Curry Blossom Cafe of Chapel Hill, NC, and the Modern at the MOMA in New York City. The Modern is the first restaurant from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that has made the shift to a tip free wage structure that they call “hospitality included,” and higher wages for both front and back of house workers. 

The summit is set in mid-April on the same days as the scheduled lobby days for the National Restaurant Association in an effort to counter-lobby their suppression of the tipped minimum wage. This year, rather than office to office visits of members of the House and Senate, we held two panels, one for House staffers, and one for Senate. I got to sit on both, and discuss the ways that Black Star Co-op supports the One Fair Wage campaign and to urge the staffers to get their Congressmen and women to support the bills on the floor of both House and Senate that move toward eliminating the tipped sub-minimum wage. 

Of course, there’s more to do in D.C. than stump for fair worker treatment and dignified wages: food and drink! R&D! I had two excellent meals with great company at Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow. I also made it to the Jack Rose, a whiskey bar with a selection of over 2400 bottles, and that was pretty rad, too. Late night oysters were enjoyed at the Old Ebbitt Grill and local craft beers flowed freely. 

Personally, I think this year’s summit was the best of the three we have had thus far—more engagement from the participants, a clear expansion of restauranteurs that are doing their part to pay and treat workers more fairly, and a national movement toward the elimination of the tipped sub-minimum wage that seems to be more and more likely in the near future.