Transcript: Restaurant owner Andy Shallal’s press briefing remarks on the Fair Minimum Wage Act – March 3, 2014

Partial transcript of press conference remarks by Andy Shallal, owner of Washington D.C. area restaurants Busboys and Poets, on the introduction of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 to raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016. The press conference was held on March 3, 2014:

Thank you very much. I am living proof that you can actually do this and still be successful.

We – I know that the National Restaurant Association, which we call the other NRA, has been at it to try to convince the world that if the minimum is going to be raised, the restaurants are going to close down and everybody’s going to go home.

But the fact of the matter is that Washington, D.C. already has a higher than the national average which is at $7.25 an hour. It’s at $8.25 here, and restaurants are opening en masse. You can’t walk around without seeing a new restaurant opening up every single day.

I’ve been in this business for a very long time and I’ve seen how wages have stagnated at the very bottom. It has unprofessionalized the business that I’m in.

I’m in a business that I want to be in a business that’s not just a default place where people go to because they can’t find any other work. I want to be in a business where people really do look for as a career opportunity.

This is a business where wages at the very bottom have stagnated.

Since 1985, the average discrepancy between the CEO and the line workers was 40 to 1. Today, it’s 350 to 1. These are shocking statistics that cannot be sustained.

I, as for one, am part of a coalition – the Restaurant Opportunity Center – as well as other many, many businesses around the country that have said, “You know what? This is not working for anybody.” This is not good for business. This is not good for workers. This is not good for our society.

When I want to give somebody a boost – a morale boost – I give them a raise sometimes and I think we all need a morale boost in this country and we all need to get that raise. This is long overdue, and I hope it passes.

And I’m so upset that it’s taken this long. That’s my only issue. And I really don’t think it even goes far enough. I would love to be able to see this bill go even higher, because I don’t want to have my workers or anybody workers – well, my workers wouldn’t be in that category – but any workers to have to not have a home to sleep in at the end of the night while we go out and spend hundreds of dollars sometimes on meals or we clicking that last glass of wine. All we think about is that organic chicken that we ate and the grass-fed beef, but we never think about the workers.

We talk about a triple bottom line, which is the bottom line of economy, the bottom line of community, and the bottom line of the environment. It’s time for us to think about the fourth bottom line and that is the workers.

I want to thank Sen. Harkins and Rep. Miller for introducing this legislation. And I took off from lunchtime – and you know, lunchtime is important in the restaurant business – to be able to be here so I can voice my opinion about this.

And I hope many, many other restaurants – the NRA which is going to be here in April to lobby, to tell you that the world is going to end if you raise this bill, don’t listen to them. They’ve lied before. They will lie again. This is the same organization that have gone out and said that if you stop smoking in restaurants, then restaurants are going to close and go away. The fact of the matter is that we stopped smoking in our restaurants way before it became the law, and after it became the law, restaurants are thriving more than ever and you can’t imagine today of sitting next to somebody smoking in a restaurant anymore.

So please, please, please I want this to really be sort of my legacy as a person that’s growing older, and I’m in the restaurant business; I want to be able to make sure that this bill passes. So I’ll put all my efforts behind it. Thank you so much.

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