February 06, 2023

Senators Warren, Sanders, Murray Push National Restaurant Association for Answers Following Bombshell Report of Misuse of Food Safety Training Funds

A New York Times Report Revealed the National Restaurant Association Uses Mandatory Food-safety Classes to “turn waiters and cooks into unwitting funders of its battle against minimum wage increases.”

“You owe your workers an answer as to why you are secretly using their funds to lobby against their interests,” the letter reads.

Text of Letter (PDF)  

Washington, D.C. — United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), pressed for answers in a letter to National Restaurant Association President and CEO Michelle Korsmo. The letter follows a New York Times report that revealed the NRA has used $25 million in fees required to be paid by workers for ServSafe food safety classes to “turn waiters and cooks into unwitting funders of its battle against minimum wage increases.” 

“We are writing in response to a recent New York Times investigation which revealed that the National Restaurant Association is using millions of dollars in fees paid by food service workers for food safety training courses to instead, ‘largely unbeknown to [the workers]’ – help ‘fund a nationwide lobbying campaign’ against minimum wage increases that would raise these workers’ pay,” wrote the lawmakers. “The Times report revealed that the Restaurant Association, through its ownership of ubiquitous food safety certifier ServSafe, is charging food service employees for employer- or state-mandated courses and then funneling that money into its federal and state lobbying apparatus to fight against basic worker protections like paid sick leave and a livable minimum wage.”

“The Association’s use of workers’ food safety course payments – which are mandatory in some states and required by employers in others – is particularly outrageous because workers who take the course are not adequately informed of how their payments are used, and because the National Restaurant Association has, for decades, led the fight against increases in federal, state, and local minimum wages and improved health benefits,” the lawmakers concluded. “You owe workers an answer as to why you are secretly using their funds to lobby against their interests.” 

The lawmakers are urging the National Restaurant Association to respond in full to initial questions about the ServSafe program, its mandatory nature, and how its funds are used no later than March 3, 2023.

Senator Warren has been an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights and oversight of big business to protect workers, the economy, and hardworking families:

  • On January 5, 2023, Senators Warren and Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.) wrote to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in support of their October proposed rule on employee status which would help reclassify potentially thousands of misclassified workers.
  • On October 5, 2022 Senators Warren, Sanders, Markey, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) blasted Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for the company’s union-busting campaign, including its ongoing and illegal weaponization of benefits against unionizing workers. 
  • On June 16, 2022 Senators Warren and Markey and Representative Jesús G. “Chuy'' García (D-Ill.) introduced the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, legislation that would provide airport workers with the pay, benefits, and labor standards they deserve after serving on the frontlines of the nation’s aviation system and keeping airports safe through a global pandemic.
  • On June 2, 2022 Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sanders and Representatives Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote to Amazon’s President and CEO demanding answers about the company’s proposed worker chat application, which reportedly would ban workers from using certain words and phrases, restricting their ability to discuss their working conditions and basic legal rights, including unionization. The lawmakers expressed concern that the Proposed App violates federal labor laws and are requesting Amazon provide them with all documents, communications, and other materials related to the Proposed App.
  • On May 11, 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Bush and Ocasio-Cortez wrote Amazon’s Executive Chairman, Jeff Bezos blasting the company for its failure to answer their questions about policies that led to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, which killed six workers. 
  • On February 10, 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced the introduction of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act. The legislation would strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs.