Why do restaurant workers fund a lobbying group that keeps their wages low?

Restaurant workers pay to take a food safety class, which — surprise — funds industry lobbying efforts.

If you start a new restaurant job, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to pay $15 to a company called ServSafe for an online food-safety class.

You’ll learn about things like handwashing and spotting mold. What’s not taught in class, though, is that ServSafe is the fundraising arm of the National Restaurant Association, the food-service industry’s largest lobbying group.

The association, which claims to represent 500k+ restaurants, has fought minimum wage increases at federal and state levels for decades, per The New York Times.

That means workers unknowingly pay the organization that fights to keep their pay as low as possible.

And it’s already low:

  • The federal minimum wage has only risen once since 1996, from $5.15 to $7.25.
  • The federal minimum hourly wage for tipped workers has remained $2.13 since 1991.

Minimums are higher in many individual states, but still below what labor groups believe to be livable wages.

It gets worse:

  • More than 3.6m workers have taken the ServSafe training, paying ~$25m since 2010.
  • While ServSafe training is offered in all states, it’s mandatory for workers in large states like Texas, California, Illinois, Florida, and Utah.

If you’re wondering how this is all legal…

… it’s because the National Restaurant Association is a business league, a type of nonprofit that’s able to lobby more freely than traditional charities. How convenient.

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