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Olive Garden Could Easily Pay Their Employees a Living Wage

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But they'd rather plump up CEO salaries instead.

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Just days after publishing a devastating report on sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) has just released a shocking report on living wages. The new study takes a look at Darden — the parent company of Olive Garden — and finds that the company could easily pay all of its workers $15 per hour simply by redirecting $.10 of every $5 in sales, or 2 percent of sales, towards employees' salaries.

The study finds that if even if Darden "passed the entire cost of the wage increase to customers" the prices of menu items would only slightly increase: Many dishes would only cost $.10 cents more and the average check at Olive Garden would go from $16.75 to $17.10.

Perhaps most importantly, the study comes at a time where the debate over minimum wage and tipped minimum wage is hot — and, shortly after the news that Starboard, one of Darden's major investors, wants to cut labor costs. Starboard would like to lay off nearly 1,600 employees and increase part-time schedules, thereby cutting down full-time employees, and forcing waitstaff to do the jobs of bussers and food runners. It was also recently revealed that Darden will pay their CEO an absurd amount of money— nearly $36 million — to step down from his position.

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