News Release

Labor Day: Tipping Point for Restaurant Workers?

Labor Day is Monday. Many restaurant workers are increasing their organizing and their demands for ending the tipped minimum wage. Last year, the House passed a bill doing just that, but the Senate refused to consider it.

ABBY GINZBERG, abbyginzberg@gmail.com, @wagingchange
Ginzberg is a Peabody award-winning director, producing documentaries about race and social justice for over 30 years. She has just released the film “Waging Change.”

She said today: “In honor of Labor Day, we are doing a national free virtual screening of ‘Waging Change,’ which reveals a disaster hiding in plain sight — that restaurant workers in 17 states make only $2.13 an hour and have to get to minimum wage by relying on their tips. Only seven states require that workers be paid the full minimum wage plus tips. With the pandemic, the situation for tipped workers has gone from bad to horrendous as many do not qualify for unemployment due to their low wages.” The trailer is here.

SARU JAYARAMAN, saru@onefairwage.org,   NIKKI COLE, nikki@onefairwage.org, @onefairwage
Jayaraman is the president of One Fair Wage, Cole is the group’s national policy director. Jayaraman said today: “Coronavirus shutdowns throughout the pandemic have exacerbated the problem of the tipped minimum wage. Many service workers are being denied unemployment insurance because their wages were literally too low to qualify. And now they’re being forced back to work without safety protocols and paid sick days for a sub-minimum wage of under $5 an hour in most states, when tips are down 75-90 percent in most parts of the country. … Black workers are tipped less because of implicit bias, and women are subject to twice the rates of sexual harassment when they aren’t paid a base, living wage.”

CHIEADZA KUNDIDZORA, ladychikundi@gmail.com
A restaurant worker, Kundidzora said today: “As an African American woman who has worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade, I have seen and experienced the damage done to women workers who are forced to rely on tips to survive and feed their families. It is past time to end the tipped minimum wage so that restaurant workers have the opportunity to earn a living wage without being dependent on sexual harassment in order to survive.”

Ginzberg is making segments of the film available to news outlets, including clips covering the following topics: overview of tipped minimum wage by states; wage theft in the restaurant industry; sexual harassment in the restaurant industry (featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); racial inequities in front vs. back of the house; reliance on public assistance; the tipped minimum wage as a legacy of slavery; and the little known fact that the House of Representatives passed a bill to end the tipped minimum wage in 2019, which has not been considered by the Senate.