Amy Poehler fights for better pay for restaurant workers

It's not Amy Poehler's first campaign, as the actress ran a successful -- albeit fictional -- one for governor of Indiana on the television show "Parks and Recreation." In real life, the actress and former waitress is playing a supporting role in an effort to ensure better pay for workers who depend on tips to make a living. 

Poehler will join speakers including restaurant, nail salon and car wash workers at a rally Tuesday in New York to call for the state to join seven others that pay tipped workers the general minimum wage, in addition to tips, instead of the lower baseline earnings tipped workers around the U.S. usually make.  

While wages vary by state, tipped workers can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour under federal law.  

In New York, tipped workers on average make between $7.50 and $8.65 an hour, below the state's general minimum wage, which ranges from $10.40 to $13.00, depending on the region, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a group that advocates for better wages and working conditions for restaurant workers.

Poehler in January brought one of ROC's founders, Saru Jayaraman of the UC Berkeley's Food Labor Research Center, to the Golden Globes to highlight labor issues in the food industry.

Jayaraman's advocacy on behalf of restaurant workers began with efforts to help workers displaced from their jobs in the World Trade Center by the September 11 attacks. 

Poehler, a "Saturday Night Live" alum, has said in interviews that she worked as a waitress for 15 years before her acting career took off. As she told the New York Daily News: "I wasn't born at the Golden Globes."

About 70 percent of restaurant servers in the U.S. are women. Counting on tips to earn a living can mean tolerating harassment from customers, as well as pressure from bosses to dress provocatively, advocates say.

The seven states that have legislated one minimum wage for all workers have lower incidences of sexual harassment and restaurants see increased sales, according to research published last week by ROC, the lead organizer of the One Fair Wage campaign.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January said state labor officials would hold hearings to consider establishing a single minimum wage for all workers, including those who get tips.