[Source: CNN Entertainment]
Several stars took a moment this week to focus on a cause that’s getting considerably less attention than striking actors and writers.
Specifically, the subpar pay and conditions facing the vast majority of US restaurant workers.
Chrissy Teigen and Jamie Lee Curtis were just two of the familiar faces on hand at a One Fair Wage event in West Hollywood on Thursday night, where they donned aprons and brandished memo pads to take patrons’ orders and serve them drinks and food at popular Mexican vegan eatery Gracias Madre.
The goal: to bring awareness to the sub-minimum wage still earned by many restaurant workers, a staggering $2.13 an hour at the federal level, allowed by law due to tips earned on top but in reality a number that keeps many restaurant workers and others well under the poverty line.
Curtis called the moment the “season of the worker,” referencing the dual Hollywood strikes, the auto workers strike as well as the plight facing minimum and sub-minimum wage workers. She called the latter group a “majority (that is) underserved, underfed, and underpaid, and it’s just time.”
Natasha Rothwell, who rose to fame thanks to her now-iconic turn as beleaguered hotel wellness worker Belinda in Season 1 of “The White Lotus,” called the $2.13 wage “disgusting.”
“I think that when you are at a restaurant, recognizing that the people that are bringing out the food, filling up your water, they’re human who have lives and needs that need to be met, and financial needs that needs to be met,” the Emmy-nominated actor told CNN.
“Our responsibility as a collective is to make sure that they get what they need.”
Having previously worked at McDonald’s, Blockbuster and Target before her acting career took off, Rothwell also referenced her character Belinda.
“Playing an iconic character that is in the service industry and is looked over, it’s extra important to bring awareness to what this means to women of color,” she observed.
One Fair Wage points to how sub-minimum wages impact a workforce that is 70 percent women and 43 percent people of color.
Teigen, who previously did work as a server (“at the late, great, Hooters of Newport Beach,” she said), recalled “dealing with the same wages day in and day out” and how “you’re relying solely on the roller-coaster that is tips.”
“Now, it’s important for me to give those same people the respect and dignity they deserve by being able to go home and feed their own families with a living wage and to be able to call attention to the disparity that is happening within that industry.”
“I think a lot of people haven’t heard of the word ‘sub-minimum’ wage,” Teigen also said.
“For a lot of people, minimum means the word minimum, as it should. The fact that there is a below that is sickening. These people are the people that are working holidays. Nights. The nights that are special to us, the nights that create memories.”
Currently, only eight states in the country pay all workers minimum wage or above, Teigen shared.
One Fair Wage is trying to change that and eradicate the federal sub-minimum wage.
When it comes to tipping in restaurants, all the stars interviewed highlighted how important it was to tip well, but Oscar-winner Curtis stood out.
“I’m a monster tipper,” she said. “I do like a 100-150% tip. Spread it around!”