By Alecia Reid

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Voters focused on raising wages for restaurant workers were out in force on Saturday. Statewide rallies focused on an industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters started at the state capital building in Harrisburg and then made their way to City Hall in Philadelphia to bring awareness to the disparity restaurant workers are face. These restaurant employees consider themselves frontline workers.

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“For essential restaurant workers, it’s putting your life at risk to go to your jobs every day,” Ashley Grumman, of West Philadelphia, said.

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A risk they feel comes with very little reward.

“Sacrificing too much, not getting back enough,” Adriane Poehlman, of South Philadelphia, said.

“The person that brings your food is worth more than $2.83 and remember, it’s a legacy of slavery, so the most important thing is that as we perpetuate this, as we allow the law to stay as it is, we’re just perpetuating the legacy of slavery,” Tsehaitu Abye, with One Fair Wage, said. “It doesn’t make sense, so as we inform people, let folks know what’s happening, it’s kind of opening folks minds up, right? Like your favorite server, bartender, they’re not just there for kicks and giggles. They’re not getting that minimum wage.”

In addition to low wages, COVID-19 has made it even more difficult. With restaurants at 50%, they say tips are down just as much.

Protesters say the One Fair Wage bill currently in Pennsylvania is pushing to get them a living wage, which in turn would offer them more security.

“We’ve kind of been a neglected industry for a long time,” Poehlman said. “A lack of accessibility to health care, a livable wage for a lot of folks. You depend on people’s bodies but don’t pay them enough to go to the doctor.”

Due to the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases, the fear is that the industry will once again suffer the consequences.

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday extended the public health emergency. Pennsylvania did the same two days ago. Gov. Tom Wolf is currently working establishments money so they can weather the storm of COVID-19.

“I am working right now with the Liquor Control Board of Pennsylvania to waive licensing fees for restaurants, clubs, bars, and hotels for the entire upcoming year,” Wolf said.

Some employees have decided to leave the industry altogether.

With more than a half-dozen other states in the U.S. using One Fair Wage, organizers say it is feasible for Pennsylvania to do the same.

“If you’re an independent restaurant and you’re paying your workers well and you’re figuring out how to do it, yes continue to do that, and let’s join forces,” Abye said.

Members from the national organization are standing up for workers who currently can’t afford to. They say they’re being backed by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.


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