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National Restaurant Association - Restaurant leaders respond to wage protests

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Restaurant leaders respond to wage protests

With protesters in several dozen cities attacking restaurant jobs and arguing for a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, restaurant leaders took their message to the media to highlight the industry’s opportunities and economic growth.

NRA Chairman Phil Hickey, who began working in restaurants as a teenager, published an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. In “McWages Can Be the Path to the Middle Class,” Hickey writes that that the knowledge and work ethic he learned in restaurant jobs as a teenager gave him a foundation that allowed him to rise through the ranks and eventually own nine restaurants.

“This experience is not uncommon,” Hickey wrote. “The first job held by nearly one in three Americans is in the restaurant industry. In addition to teaching personal responsibility, teamwork, discipline and accountability, these positions provide workers with opportunities for successful careers. Many of them—like me—advance from their entry-level, minimum-wage positions.”

“The truth is that both part-time and full-time positions make the industry a versatile career option for a variety of workers,” Hickey wrote. “From underemployed or hard-to-employ workers to college graduates, the industry provides a pathway to the middle class and often beyond.”

Wisconsin Restaurant Association official Pete Hanson, who as WRA’s vice president of public affairs represents an industry with more than 12,000 restaurant locations and more than a quarter-million jobs in the state, said in an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the restaurant industry continued to add jobs through the Great Recession.

“What does the industry get in return for helping boost our economy?” Hanson wrote. “Lately, we get critics distorting jobs in our industry as less than valuable to our workforce and our communities. I am troubled by the recent, inaccurate attacks on our industry by special interest groups, which harm 250,000 hardworking Wisconsinites who should be valued for the work they do. The small business owners and workers whom I meet in cities across this state are proud of their jobs and the contributions they make in their communities.”

In a piece published in the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., Lynn Minges, CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, stressed the economic contributions of North Carolina’s restaurant industry.

“As North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains one of the nation’s highest, the restaurant industry has been an economic bright spot by providing good-paying, reliable jobs in our state. In the last year alone, more than 21,000 jobs were added in our sector – keeping thousands of North Carolina families on solid financial ground and strengthening our state’s economy,” she wrote.

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