Doing More For Less

New York Restaurant Workers’ Experiences of Tips, Surcharges, Racial Inequity, and Why They’re Leaving the Industry During Covid-19

In September 2020, the New York City Council passed a bill to allow City restaurants to add a 10 percent surcharge to their bill. The bill was passed in the context of a struggling restaurant industry and employers seeking additional revenue but did not take into account equally struggling restaurant workers’ experiences of increased exposure to health risks, hostility, and harassment from customers while also earning far less in tips. The subminimum wage for tipped workers created a situation in which workers were vulnerable to customer hostility and harassment and unable to survive with the significant decline in tips. These experiences were exacerbated by racial inequity; Black workers, in particular, experienced a greater decline in tips and higher health risks. This report documents New York restaurant workers’ experiences of the decline in tips and increase in health risks, how these experiences were exacerbated by the passage of the surcharge bill and racial inequality, and also how this combination of factors have motivated many talented hospitality workers to leave the New York City restaurant industry altogether.


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