As a way to draw attention to the growing concerns of servers in the restaurant industry, who feel as if the pay is not worth the headaches, and even the (mounting) industry hazards and harassments, Assembly members Jonathan Rivera and Monica Wallace are planning on being “servers for an hour” at Spot Coffee on Delaware Avenue.
Heightened by the pandemic, more and more servers are expressing their unhappiness with making subminimum wage for tipped workers. Not only have many of these servers decided to not return to their jobs, they have opted to leave the industry entirely, which has, of course, impacted the restaurants and cafés that are finding it harder and harder to staff their operations. This is not just a Buffalo problem, it’s a universal problem that is negatively impacting workers, business owners, and customers, say Rivera and Wallace.
By participating as “servers for an hour” (today at 12:30pm), Asm. Wallace and Rivera intend to demonstrate the need for Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which would end the subminimum wage and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
A new New York statewide report by One Fair Wage finds that:
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 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%).
New York women were more likely to report regularly experiencing hostile behavior in re- sponse to enforcing COVID safety protocol than men (46% v 38%).
New York women also reported at much higher rates than men that sexual harassment increased during the pandemic (44% v 33%).
Last month, One Fair Wage sent a letter to members of Congress challenging representatives to participate in the #serverforanhour demonstration, to see for themselves why there is growing discontentedness among the nearly six million tipped workers and 14 million restaurant workers nationwide.
The letter reads:
“The pandemic has made our hard jobs even harder. After most of us were not able to receive unemployment insurance because we were told our wages were too low, we had to go back to work before we felt safe. We found that our tips have gone down, while sexual harassment has done up. And research has proven that sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the restaurant industry are a direct result of the subminimum wage. Yet we’ve heard that some United States Senators don’t want to give us the same basic fair wage as all other Americans and want to cut us out of the Raise the Wage Act — and keep this unfair, unjust legacy of slavery intact.”
Over 140,000 workers also sent petitions to Congress calling on members to pass the Raise the Wage Act.
“We’re now writing to ask if you would join us for just one hour during your recess at a local ‘high road’ restaurant that has received support through the ARP to step into the shoes of a tipped worker as a ‘Server For An Hour.’ Your leadership could help send a message to your colleagues in Congress that the racist, sexist subminimum wage must go — and should not be a part of any final legislation.”