A fancy fundraiser hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker to promote minimum-wage hikes in New York is taking unusual steps to avoid an embarrassing protest — by the same restaurant workers it claims it’s trying to help.
The “Dinner with Friends” gala slated for Monday evening is charging as much as $50,000 per table to fund the One Fair Wage campaign, which is looking to close loopholes that restaurants have been using to pay their tipped staff wages below the city’s fast-rising minimum wage.
But the steep price of the tickets — with plates starting at $500 — isn’t the only barrier to entry, say would-be protesters, who fear the city’s minimum-wage hikes will endanger their jobs and businesses.
In what looks like an extra precaution, One Fair Wage has been vetting the identities of attendees who attempt to buy tickets, according to protesters looking to crash the party.
In at least one case a restaurant worker who bought a $500 ticket last week hadn’t been told where the gala was taking place by Monday morning. Later in the day, the worker got an email that the credit card charge would be refunded because the event was oversold.
The shindig is slated to begin on Monday evening at 6 p.m.
“I’ve been contacted by dozens of servers who were interested in protesting this event,” said Joshua Chaisson, a bartender in Maine who represents Restaurant Workers of America. “They were particularly furious about a $50,000-per-table fundraiser to harm our industry, attended by people who don’t work in our industry.”
Guests who donate at least $1,000 will get a “photo with Sarah Jessica Parker,” as well as Hollywood actors Hill Harper and Erika Alexander, according to the One Fair Wage site.
Previously, the site said the gala was being staged the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. A sales rep for the venue insisted on Monday that, while an event is taking place there Monday evening, it isn’t One Fair Wage.
“A few of us considered showing up on Monday to Ms. Parker’s fundraiser to try and speak with her,” Susannah Koteen, owner of the Harlem eatery Lido. Koteen is among a group of 20 female and minority restaurateurs who have formed a coalition to oppose the wage hike.
“But now we see that they’ve removed the event location from their website and you can only get the address upon buying tickets,” Koteen said.
One Fair Wage, organized by a worker advocacy group, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Chaisson, who claims his group represents some 18,000 workers, argues that servers earn more money with tips coupled with below-minimum-wage “tip credits,” which are currently $8.65 an hour in New York City.
That’s compared to Big Apple’s current minimum wage of $13 an hour, which is slated to get hiked to $15 an hour next year. At those rates, many restaurant owners say they’ll be forced to raise menu prices and fire workers.
“My concern is that I’ll earn less money and work more hours,” said Alcieli Felipe, a full time server at Lido, who earns up to $30 an hour and between $600 and $1,000 a week. “My boss will be forced to cut employees.”
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