Just a few days ago, New York State raised the tipped minimum wage by 50% from $5.00 an hour to $7.50 an hour. Tomorrow, Connecticut legislators will hold a hearing on a bill that eliminate the ‘tip credit’ and increase the lower, tipped minimum wage — currently $5.78 an hour — to match the state’s full minimum wage.
In an unprecedented amount of activity on raising wages for tipped workers, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, and New Hampshire are expected to hold public hearings for legislation that would eliminate the sub-minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, the legislature is advancing bills that would significantly increase the tipped minimum wage, while Michigan is expected to introduce legislation to eliminate the sub-minimum wage as early as this month.
Nationally, the majority of tipped restaurant workers are women. They use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce, are three-times as likely to live in poverty, and endure the worst sexual harassment of any industry with 90% reporting experiencing sexual harassment on the job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has targeted the restaurant industry as the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges with a rate five-times higher than any other industry.
By allowing the restaurant industry to pay a subminimum wage to women — who make up 70% of servers — one of the largest industries in the country teaches countless millions of women, many of whom find their first job in the industry, that their worth is intrinsically linked to enduring forms of harassment and being objectified. The restaurant industry’s low wages and treatment of women is an affront to ALL WOMEN.
Women’s rights leaders and organizations agree that eliminating the two-tiered wage system is an issue of gender-justice; several renowned feminists, including Eve Ensler (Tony Award winning playwright, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising), Terry O’Neill (President of National Organization for Women), Teresa Younger (CEO of the Ms. Foundation), and other leading women’s rights advocates convened at Olive Garden in Times Square on February 13th, a national day of action led by ROC United to highlight the federal tipped minimum wage being frozen at $2.13 an hour, to demand all restaurants pay an actual living wage.
The two-tiered wage system is broken. ROC United’s ‘One Fair Wage’ campaign can fix it: by winning the fight to raise the lower, tipped minimum wage to match the regular minimum wage, tipped restaurant workers will receive a stable and fair paycheck instead of being forced to live off tips alone.