As part of weekly Moral Mondays initiated by the Poor People’s Campaign, on Monday, Feb. 8, essential workers across the country held socially distanced rallies in celebration of the Raise the Wage Act – legislation that would end the subminimum wage for tipped workers and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour that’s included in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package.

The event was organized by One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit organization representing subminimum wage workers, SEIU International and the Poor People’s Campaign.

The live programs celebrated the inclusion of the Raise the Wage Act in the COVID-19 relief package, thanked supportive U.S. senators for listening to the needs of millions of workers and supportive small businesses and called on their peers to do the same.

Supportive locally-based. small business restaurant owners provided free meals, musicians and bands who entertained participants.

Meanwhile, essential workers shared stories about why both raising the wage to $15 an hour and ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers – a legacy of slavery and source of both poverty and sexual harassment for a majority female industry – remains critical in efforts to ensure that they and their families can survive the pandemic.

In the District, celebrity Chef Jose Andres provided 100 free meals to rally participants.

Speakers for the digital event, which included a brief live-stream from all local events, included: Mary Kay Henry, president, Service Employees International Union; Saru Jayaraman, president, One Fair Wage; the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; and Andy Shallal, owner, Busboys & Poets in D.C.

In the District, speakers were joined by two gigantic statues of “Elena the Essential Worker” and a local go-go band.

D.C. speakers included: Andy Hooper, president of &Pizza; Ifeoma Ezimako, an essential restaurant worker based out of D.C.; Tizoc Zarate, a Spanish-speaking 22-year-old Mexican-American man with aspirations of opening up his own taco stand and someday becoming a politician; Saba Tshibaka, an advocate for the socioeconomic empowerment of women and girls who spent a year as a manager at the College Park Black-owned business, Milk & Honey and who has worked at both the Department of Treasury and Google; Dia King, a native Washingtonian with nearly 30 years of hospitality service under his belt; and Veronica Tucker, another native Washingtonian who has worked most of her life in the District as a banquet waiter/bartender.

In the District, the event took place on the National Mall.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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