The CNN 10 Visionary Women: Saru Jayaraman
March 24th, 2014
09:30 AM ET
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This Women’s History Month, CNN set out to highlight the efforts of 10 women who are helping other women find success, self-esteem and sometimes a safe haven. The women represent diverse fields: technology, fashion design, policy, activism, literature and skilled labor. What they have in common is a mission to empower their fellow woman. See the full list at CNN Living.

Saru Jayaraman wants you to eat with your mind full. The 38-year-old co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and author of “Behind the Kitchen Door” has spent her career fighting for service workers to get a fair wage in a respectful, safe environment. Most of those workers are women.

In an essay for Maria Shriver’s “The Shriver Report,” Jayaraman plainly laid out the facts: “Restaurant servers are three times as likely to live in poverty and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. work force. In a terrible irony, the women who put food on the tables of restaurant-goers everywhere are struggling to put it on their own.”

Through a new ROC United campaign, “Living Off Tips,” Jayaraman and her colleagues hope to put a face on this work force (70% of tipped workers are women who work at chain restaurants, according to a U.S. Census survey) by asking them to share their stories of what it truly means to depend on a federal minimum tipped wage of $2.13.

“Most young women start their career working in restaurants, and this is how they’re exposed to the world of work,” Jayaraman said. “They learn they can be paid nothing and touched and treated inappropriately. Because they’re living off tips, they are completely vulnerable to how their customers treat them.”

Read more about Jayaraman and the rest of The CNN 10 Visionary Women

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