One Fair Wage Must Be Instituted To End Sexual Harassment in The Service Sector Immediately

Published on August 10, 2021, 11:21 pm
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In reaction the Governor Cuomo’s resignation announcement, Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, a national non-profit that advocates on behalf of workers earning the tipped subminimum wage, specifically restaurant workers, issued the following in response:

“Governor Cuomo’s announcement that he is resigning effective 14 days is long overdue. As One Fair Wage stands in solidarity with the many survivors of sexual harassment who suffered abuse at the hands of the outgoing Governor, we know also at stake are the 400,000 women across New York working at the front lines of the restaurant industry—the industry with the absolute highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry due to a subminimum wage that forces these women to live off of tips.

“We applaud newly-appointed Governor Hochul for having publicly called for One Fair Wage—ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers. As the first woman Governor of New York, and coming into office on the heels of a sexual harassment crisis no less, she must prioritize ending the subminimum wage for tipped restaurant workers and align with President Biden, thousands of independent resaturant owners, and hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers calling for One Fair Wage as the single most effective means to cut sexual harassment in the restaurant industry: the industry with the highest levels of sexual harassment of all.

“Governor Cuomo has conspicuously left these 400,000 women out of minimum wage increases due to pressure from the restaurant lobby. After saying that he would end the subminimum wage for tipped workers as a way to address sexual harassment in the restaurant industry in December 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement, Governor Cuomo proceeded to end the subminimum wage for all other tipped workers, except for restaurant workers, who are nearly two-thirds women in New York State and who suffered a dramatic increase in life-threatening sexual harassment during the pandemic.

“But restaurant workers—especially women and women of color—cannot afford to be put on the back burner for another second in this crisis moment for restaurants in New York. More than 50% of New York restaurant workers are considering quitting the industry, and they will not go back to restaurants until they can earn full, fair, livable wages with tips on top.

“What New Yorkers need now is restaurant jobs with dignity. We implore Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul to institute One Fair Wage—a full minimum wage for all workers with tips on top—as one of her first acts as Governor.”

Last week, One Fair Wage released a how-to-guide on how restaurants, even amid the pandemic, can profitably transition to paying this wage to their workers. 

In June, One Fair Wage released its latest New York statewide report, “It’s A Wage Shortage, Not A Worker Shortage: Why New York Restaurant Workers Are Leaving the Industry, and What Would Make Them Stay, which identified how the core problem with restaurants recruiting workers is not the lack of workers available, but rather, the lack of workers who will go back to jobs that pay so little. 

The report found that: 

  • New York women in the restaurant industry reported at much higher rates than men that sexual harassment increased during the pandemic (44% v 33%). These workers were more likely to report regularly experiencing hostile behavior in response to enforcing CoViD safety protocol than men (46% v 38%).
  • Half of all New York workers report that they are considering leaving their restaurant job because of the pandemic, and nine in ten (90%) say they are leaving due to low wages and tips (compared to 76% of workers nationwide).
  • Nearly 8 in 10 workers (78%) said that a “full, stable, livable wages” would be the top reason that would make them stay in the industry. This was by far the most popular factor that workers reported would make them stay at their job, more than 30 percentage points higher than the second most popular factor — paid sick leave.
  • While most New York workers are leaving the industry because tips are down, pay is too low, and health risks, hostility and harassment have increased, women report suffering these impacts at much higher rates than men.
  • In New York, women were more likely to report knowing someone that has contracted CoViD-19 than men (91% v 87%) and more likely to report being within 6 feet of 30 or more unmasked people during their shifts (31% v 21%).
  • Women in New York were far more likely to report tips decreased with the pandemic than men (85% v 77%) and that their tips have decreased by half or more (61% v 60%).

To download the full report, please visit here.

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