A Persistent Legacy Of Slavery

Ending the Subminimum Wage for Tipped Workers in New York as a Racial Equity Measure

In 2020, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprisings for racial justice catalyzed by the police murder of George Floyd illuminated the repression, precarity, and exclusion facing people of color, particularly Black people, throughout U.S. society. This year has brought to the forefront three major sources of violence and harm to Black communities and communities of color more generally: police violence, health inequities and economic precarity. The nexus of these three forces is acutely felt by one of the largest workforces in the country — tipped service workers.

Women and people of color disproportionately comprise the tipped service sector, the largest share of which comes from the restaurant industry. The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest growing industries and also the lowest paid. Indeed, 8 of the 15 lowest-paid occupations are restaurant jobs, seven of which are tipped. As COVID-19 forced the closure of thousands of restaurants in New York and nationwide, as well as other tipped personal service occupations such as nail salon, car wash, airport and parking attendants, and tipped gig workers, this workforce plummeted even deeper into poverty and financial insecurity.


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