Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in 1/2 in restaurant industry by raising the subminimum wage for workers, 82% of NY restaurant workers report being harassed
Coalition of allies include other tipped and low-wage workers, nail salon technicians, car wash workers
NEW YORK, NY – On Tuesday, tipped wage workers joined actor/producer and former waitress/server, Amy Poehler, at a marquee event with labor leaders and elected officials to call for One Fair Wage in New York. Restaurant servers, nail salon technicians, and car wash workers shared their personal stories about economic instability, including their #MeToo experiences, and how it’s #TimesUp on the subminimum wage.
One Fair Wage is a national campaign to bring New York in line with seven other states that pay tipped workers their state’s general minimum wage on top of their tips. In New York, tipped workers make a subminimum wage ranging from $7.50 – $8.65, relying on tips to bring them up to the state’s general minimum wage, which ranges from $10.40 – $13.00, depending on the region. One Fair Wage states have more robust wages, sales, establishment, and employment growth than their counterparts, and workers report significantly lower rates of harassment.
In his January State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the NYS Department of Labor will hold hearings to examine establishing One Fair Wage. Hearings have been scheduled for March-June.
“In many cities and for many years I worked for tips as a waitress to support myself. This is why I stand with workers for One Fair Wage in New York. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our economic stability in order to preserve our self-respect. Time’s up on profiting off of women while refusing to pay them a fair wage,” said Amy Poehler, actor/producer and former waitress/server.
“The current broken two-tiered wage structure in New York puts women restaurant workers at the mercy of their customers and co-workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, President and Co-Founder of ROC United, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door: The People Who Make and Serve Your Food. “With just a small change in policy, Governor Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in half for a majority female workforce, without sacrificing economic growth. One fair wage is good for workers and good for business.”
Jayaraman recently appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss the issue, and attended the Golden Globes with Amy Poehler as part of the #TimesUp campaign to end sexual harassment across industries.
“Tipped workers, who are majority female and disproportionately women of color, receive a lower minimum wage and struggle with economic instability and sexual harassment. This two tiered wage system is a legacy of slavery and must be abolished. New York needs to put an end to the subjugation of women, and workers of color in particular, by establishing One Fair Wage now,” said Erika Alexander, actress and activist.
With nearly 13 million employees, the restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with a rate twice that of the general female workforce. According to the EEOC since 2010 (and as of 6/2016) ‘employees have filed 162,872 charges alleging harassment’ with employers paying out $698.7 million in penalties. There are 395,680 tipped workers in New York, 76% of whom work in the restaurant industry, and 82% report being harassed on the job.
Seventy percent of restaurant servers are women, who experience a disproportionate amount of sexual harassment as a result of the broken two-tiered wage system. Relying on tips to make a living wage forces workers to tolerate sexual harassment from customers in return for “gratuities,” and they often receive additional pressure from management to dress in a revealing way to attract larger tips.
“When I was a server, I was sexually harassed repeatedly, like when a male customer once said to me, ‘hey big titty black girl, got enough milk in those jugs for my coffee?’ I reported it to my manager, but he told me to suck it up. I refused and kept complaining, so he gave me fewer shifts and eventually forced me out. Women should not have to use our bodies to serve food to put food on our own tables, and that’s why I support One Fair Wage,” said Shanita Thomas, restaurant worker and member leader at ROC United.
“My income naturally fluctuates when working for tips. So I enter each shift trying to make as many tips as possible by catering to customers as much as I can, which often means I have to put up with sexual harassment. No worker should be forced to have to fake giggle to a customer who has had one too many or put up with customers who make lewd comments about my “sexy” body to earn a living. Unfortunately management plays into this behavior, often encouraging workers to double down on their sex appeal. I used to work in an establishment that exclusively hired female servers, and at staff meetings we were blatantly told to wear more makeup. One Fair Wage has a unique effect on restaurant servers because it frees workers’ dependence on subjecting themselves to sexual harassment in order to secure a livable wage,” said Gemma Rossi, New York City restaurant worker for 15 years.
“As a Manhattan restaurant owner, anti-sexual harassment trainings and increasing the wages of our servers and kitchen staff has made my business stronger, my employees happier and less stressed in their environment, and everyone’s livelihoods stabler and more secure. As a result, our low turnover rate is the envy of our peers: while the national average is 70% per year, ours is less than 10%. One Fair Wage has done wonders for California’s restaurant industry. It can do the same for New York State,” said James Mallios, owner of Amali restaurant.
“Why do we want one fair wage? Because our industry is different in that it varies during seasons. During winter time business goes down and there aren’t enough clients coming in, which means not enough tips to even make minimum wage. If we don’t have a stable wage, we are unable to pay our bills, rent, we can’t provide a good education for our kids. We need a different system… We need there to be a change in order for our industry to be better and the workers can have a dignified and healthy life. We need something different, something new, a way to transform our industry because right now we are exposed to a lot of wage theft so we need this change in order for us to have economic stability,” said Araceli, nail salon worker and member of the NY Nail Salon Worker Association
“It is painful for me to watch my husband get up so early to go to a job that pays poverty wages,” said Federica Martinez, wife of a car wash worker. “It’s not right that he makes a subminimum wage because of the trip credit rule. This is not just about car wash workers. We all have a stake in making sure everyone gets the wage they deserve.”
Sexual Harrassment and Tipped Work
According to a 2014 study conducted by ROC United, a key leader in the One Fair Wage campaign, women dependent on tips are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment than women who aren’t. A 2016 follow-up study in D.C. found that over 90% of restaurant workers surveyed experienced some form of sexualized behavior while at work. A similar 2016 study in Boston found that 35% of tipped workers had been sexually harassed by customers, over twice as many as other workers in the same survey.
Restaurant workers of all genders report harassing behavior:
· 66% from restaurant management
· 78% from customers.
· 80% from co-workers (cooks and back of house staff)
· 37% of tipped workers are mothers
· 18% are single mothers
Many restaurant workers tolerate harassment from customers so that customers pay tips, as well as being harassed from managers to get better tips by “dressing sexy” or who ask for sexual favors in exchange for better shifts, and from colleagues (cooks and back-of-house) staff who make the food that customers base their tips on. A shocking example: a manager or colleague will grope a female server. If the server says no, managers will give servers punitive shifts (morning shifts when there are fewer customers) or cooks will purposely mess up food that will make customers unhappy.
NY vs. One Fair Wage States
In New York over 17% of tipped workers of color live in poverty, twice the rate of the overall workforce.
OFW would reduce food stamp usage by 22% in New York.
In OFW states poverty rates are 10% lower than in New York
In OFW states full service restaurants opened and operated at a rate nearly double that of New York, which only had an increase of 4.88%.
In OFW states, the median wage for restaurant tipped workers is $11.44, compared to $10.88 in New York.
Tipped-wage workers in OFW states report making as much, or more, in tips than tipped-wage workers in New York.
The average tip rate in New York is 15.6%.
Restaurant employment rates are equal or higher in OFW states. From 2011-2016, full service restaurant employment (FSRE) grew by 20.4%, compared to 20.13% in New York.
New York, home to one of the largest restaurant industries in the country, had a projected restaurant sales increase of 3.6%, a rate lower than the individual rates of 6 of the 7 OFW states.
The National Restaurant Association predicts that the industry will add 1.6 million jobs over the next nine years, helping boost New York’s restaurant workforce by 6.1%
Over 80% of tipped restaurant workers in New York experience sexual harassment at work, and over half report that this is a weekly or daily occurrence.
Only 42% of workers surveyed reported that employers ensured their wages were brought up to the regular minimum wage.
Most tipped workers participate in a tip pool; the vast majority of workers has no say in the allocation of tips, and many do not know how tips are allocated.
Tipped workers experience wage theft associated with the tipped wage system both due to misapplication of service charges and failure to pay overtime.
In his January State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the NYS Department of Labor will hold hearings to examine raising the subminimum wage and establishing One Fair Wage in New York, saying:
“New York continues to be a national leader in fighting for justice for working men and women, and by providing a platform for New Yorkers’ concerns to be heard, we are furthering our efforts to deliver fair wages for all. I am urging those impacted by this proposal to register, attend a hearing, and help us move this state one step closer toward a better, more just New York.”
Hearings have been scheduled for March-June.
The ONE FAIR WAGE Coalition includes: Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, A Better Balance, AlignNY, Citizen Action of New York, Community Service Society, Enlace, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Judson Memorial Church, Make the Road New York, Metro Justice, National Employment Law Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, New Economy Project, NY Communities for Change, NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Planned Parenthood of NYC, PowHerNY, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, ROC-NY, RWDSU, SEPA Mujer, Tompkins County Workers Center, Women’s Equality Party, Women’s Organizing Network, Workers United NY NJ, 32BJ SEIU.