The Taboo of the Tip
Imagine getting paid $2.13 per hour. This is the wage the federal government and most states allow employers to pay tipped workers.
On today’s national day of action to abolish the tipped minimum wage, ERA joins Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and partners nationwide in demanding one fair wage for all workers.
Throughout the restaurant industry, employers count on their customers to supplement the poverty wages they pay their employees. As detailed in this ERA report, forcing tipped workers to depend on customers for their paycheck leaves them more vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment. ROC United has found that 90% of women restaurant workers report enduring some form of sexual harassment at work – a much higher rate than for non-tipped workers.
Equal Rights Advocates has a long history of representing restaurant workers. ERA client Rebecca, who works as a waitress in Pittsburgh, says:
“Women in the restaurant industry have learned that they need to just expect sexual harassment and low pay. I have been working in restaurants for over 20 years and have never once received a raise. You have to fight every day for what you earn.”
The tipped minimum wage not only makes restaurant workers more vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment, but also to retaliation when they find the courage to speak up about the problem: when a worker’s income depends so heavily on tips, a simple change to her shift or station assignment could lead to a significant drop in earnings and even force her to leave the restaurant.
“Nobody wants to talk about restaurant workers’ pay,” says Rebecca. “It’s the taboo of the tip.”
So far, seven states have abolished the tipped minimum wage. It’s time for the other 43 to follow.
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