RESTAURANT OPPORTUNITIES CENTERS UNITED (ROC UNITED) AND ONE FAIR WAGE COALITION PRAISE CUOMO ADMINISTRATION FOR STRONG COMMITMENT TO ESTABLISH “ONE FAIR WAGE” – ELIMINATE LOWER MINIMUM WAGE FOR TIPPED WORKERS
When workers are forced to rely on tips to make the minimum wage, they are more
vulnerable to predatory sexual behavior. Restaurant industry leads the nation in
sexual harassment complaints year after year.
NEW YORK, NY—At an event held in NYC on Tuesday, Alphonso David, a top aide and chief counsel to Governor Cuomo, announced support for eliminating the subminimum wage in New York (“One Fair Wage”). This announcement from the Governor’s office comes on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and assault allegations, and the sexual harassment allegations against celebrity chef John Besh, who recently stepped down from his restaurant group.
Though it employs 7 percent of U.S. workers, a disproportionate 37% of EEOC sexual harassment claims come from the restaurant industry (the single largest source). Sexual harassment is endemic within the restaurant industry. Eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers—the vast majority of them women—would make them less reliant on tips to make their living, and thus less likely to have to tolerate sexual harassment from customers or pressure from managers and owners to objectify themselves.
Saru Jayaraman, ROC United’s President: “We want to thank Governor Cuomo and his administration for coming out strongly on behalf of workers, especially the hundreds of thousands of women and people of color in New York who endure serious hardship because they are forced to make a living off of a subminimum wage, which is only $7.50 in this state. We look forward to working with the Governor, and we thank Senator Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Member Jaffee. We look forward to finally bringing New York’s wage policy into the 21st Century.”
Mr. David, along with actress and activist Jane Fonda, New York State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Member Ellen C. Jaffee, addressed a crowd of workers, wage advocates, and other elected officials at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House. The event was held to discuss the need to eliminate the tipped minimum wage and establish One Fair Wage as the minimum for all workers in New York and across the country. Restaurant workers report high levels of poverty, lack of healthcare, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, largely because they are paid a subminimum wage and forced to live off of tips.
A bill to create One Fair Wage has been introduced in both houses of the New York State Legislature (by sponsors Senator Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Member Jaffee); Governor Cuomo, however, has the power to eliminate the tipped minimum wage without legislative approval. New York would become the first One Fair Wage state on the East Coast.
Addressing the crowd, Mr. David said (excerpted):
“Legislation is one [way to get One Fair Wage], but there are other avenues we can explore. There should be no subminimum wage, which is essentially what we have in New York and in other parts of the country. Yes, we do support the initiative. We will work with you in getting it done in New York, and we will utilize whatever strategies we need to utilize to get it done as well.”
Advocates praised Cuomo for being a leader in the fight to increase wages and prevent workplace sexual harassment.
Hector Figueroa, President, SEIU 32BJ: “32BJ is committed to raising wages and standards for workers across the state. It is long overdue for tipped workers to be afforded the fair wages, dignity, and respect on the job that they deserve. We are heartened by the governor’s support for the One Fair Wage campaign and look forward to working together to make it a reality.”
Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President, A Better Balance: “New York women, especially those in the restaurant industry and low-wage occupations, routinely endure discrimination and harassment in order to provide for their families. As a legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring fairness and justice for low-income women, A Better Balance is proud to work in partnership with ROC to help end this abusive culture and establish one fair wage for all workers. We deeply appreciate Governor Cuomo’s support for this initiative, which, if enacted, would build upon on his unparalleled commitment to ensuring the health and economic security of women and families.”
Beverly Neufeld, President, PowHer New York: “PowHer New York applauds the announcement of Governor Cuomo’s support for One Fair Wage, which builds on his ongoing commitment to equality for women in New York. The current subminimum wage puts restaurant workers, mostly women, in economic and physical peril. Changing this outdated, discriminatory practice is another critical step towards ensuring that these and all employees have safe working conditions and economic security.”
A recent survey by ROC United found more than 80 percent of New York’s tipped restaurant employees reported experiencing unwanted sexual behaviors at work (from co-workers, customers, owners, managers, supervisors), and over half reported that this is a weekly or daily occurrence at their workplaces. Fifty-five percent reported that they or a co-worker had experienced verbal abuse at work in the past year, including harassment, slurs, and threats.