Michigan Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II announced Monday the state plans to partner with nonprofit organization One Fair Wage to distribute more than $250,000 in relief funding to struggling restaurant owners and workers, while also helping to fight food insecurity.
Called High Road Kitchens, the program “provides jobs for restaurant workers and a subsidy for responsible restaurant owners who commit to paying a living wage and following equitable employment practices.” Qualifying restaurants are given an initial $5,000 payment to help purchase necessary supplies to offer free or discounted meals to those in need within a community and up to $25,000 in funding to offset the cost of hiring labor to create and serve those meals.
In return, restaurants partnered with High Road Kitchens must serve at least one free meal for every $10 granted over the course of eight weeks and commit to a “scaled approach” to paying One Fair Wage for employees within five years of being awarded the grant. Failure to achieve these commitments, which includes “full wage parity for tipped and non-tipped employees by January 2026,” would result in a restaurant returning its grant funding to One Fair Wage.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that we need to rethink and reimagine our nation’s economic policies to provide the greatest support to families and small businesses that have been disproportionately impacted due to no fault of their own,” Gilchrist says in a release. “The beauty about One Fair Wage’s High Road Kitchens program is that it is an equity-driven approach to help restaurants and the people who work in them, increase wages and economic opportunity, and demonstrate that our investment priorities must support individuals, businesses, and the community working together for shared prosperity.”
One Fair Wage, campaigned extensively in Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia in support of increasing minimum wages and eliminating the tipped minimum wage. The group ran a petition in 2018 to get a minimum wage increase on the ballot in Michigan. Supporters of the One Fair Wage campaign argued that the tipped minimum wage disproportionately impacts people of color and women working within the restaurant industry, contributing to sexual harassment, discrimination, and poverty.
The state’s minimum wage currently sits at $9.65 per hour, with the tipped minimum wage, which applies to restaurant servers and bartenders, at $3.67 per hour. Another minimum wage increase in Michigan could raise that rate to $9.87 per hour, if unemployment numbers rebound.
Similar national efforts from Louisville chef Edward Lee and chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen continue to provide food and funding to struggling restaurants and the industry’s workforce during the health crisis. In September 2020, Detroit halal restaurant Saffron De Twah became a community kitchen offering 500 free meals a day to people in need.
Those interested in applying to High Road Kitchens should submit an online application.