This week, restaurant employers across the country became the target of another desperate campaign by national unions that have been suffering for years from declining membership and dues. Rather than looking forward to new innovative ways to modernize, they are instead retreading on outdated pressure tactics that kill jobs and opportunity for employees of all backgrounds and skill levels.

While restaurants look to the future of advancing the American dream, labor groups are holding the workforce back. Restaurants provide an unparalleled career ladder for men and women of all ethnicities and backgrounds. U.S. Census Bureau data show that growth in restaurant ownership among minorities and women outpaced growth in the overall restaurant industry during the last 10 years. Eighty percent of restaurant owners started in the restaurant industry in an entry-level position. Fifty-seven percent of first-line supervisors/managers of food preparation and service workers in 2010 were women, 15 percent were of Hispanic origin and 15 percent were African-American.


Disguised by slogans like "Fast Food Forward" and "Fight for $15," these campaigns disparage our industry and propose unionizing as the only solution to alleged dead-end wages and inequality for women and minorities.

Unions are also frantically trying to implement an ambush election rule which would narrow the length of time between the filing of a union petition and fast-track an employee vote on unionization. This circumvention of union election rules restrict an employer's ability to raise substantive issues and concerns prior to a union election, deny employees full and proper access to information on unions and restrict employers' rights to due process and proper time to address employee concerns.

The facts on wages in the restaurant industry couldn't be clearer. The vast majority of restaurant workers make above minimum wage. The median wage for tipped workers is more than $16 per hour.

Only 5 percent of restaurant employees earn the federal minimum wage and those who do are predominantly working part-time jobs and nearly half are teenagers. Those who start at minimum wage don't stay there for long. Nearly 70 percent of restaurant workers have received a raise within the past 12 months. Any mandated across-the-board hike in the minimum wage places jobs and opportunity further out of reach for teenagers and our least-skilled workers.

No other industry provides the flexibility in part- and full-time employment that restaurants do, whether it's a single mother that needs to accommodate a daycare schedule, a young adult looking for the right work-school balance to get a degree or a lesser-skilled employee just looking to gain skills and experience to advance. Restaurants are backdrops for many success stories. Dishwashers become sous chefs, bussers become head bartenders and servers become restaurant owners. Millions of entry-level workers have built critical competencies of personal responsibility, team building, discipline and accountability through these jobs — all in a fast-paced environment.

Despite new and catchy slogans, organized labor's tactics are tired and old. Policymakers and the media should see that this latest campaign is one of self-preservation, not employee advancement.

Sweeney is president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 14 million employees. For more information, visit or visit Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook or YouTube.