On the 12th of April, restaurant workers protested first at the DC Council, then at the Ronald Reagan Building demanding that the minimum wage for tipped workers be raised from $2.77 an hour to $15 an hour. The National Restaurant Association (“other NRA”) was meeting at the Reagan building. Outside, protesters offered a stack of bags of ice as the “Frozen Wages Award” for former NRA CEO Herman Cain for his role in blocking prior increases in the mimimum wage for restaurant workers, who at “tipped employees” can make next to nothing if the restaurant is empty on a bad night.
Security guards at the Reagan building tried without success to keep protesters from distributing fliers about the tipped worker/subminimum wage situation to several large groups of students entering and exiting other events at the building. No laws prohibit such fliering, but security guards at this building are notorious for trying to intimidate people out of fliering or protesting. With cameras in their faces they made no determined effort to back up their demands when their bluffs were called.
Protesters called out the origins of tipping workers instead of their bosses paying them as a relic of the time of slavery, when newly freed slaves often worked for tips only. Even the Washington Post has written on this regrettable orgin of the tipped worker system.
It is somehow appropriate that an organization that lobbies to retain a practice that dates to the time of slavery would meet in the Ronald Reagan building, named for a president who began his term with an ugly union-busting campaign to deny the air traffic controllers union representation. This building is also notorious for repeatedly hosting the Neo-Nazi “National Policy Institute” or NPI, an organization advocating compulsory sterilization for people of color.