In 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that ended the subminimum wage for all tipped industries except those that work in restaurants. While this was a major success for the One Fair Wage movement, it left a major population of New York State’s tipped workers behind. The order covered nearly 70,000 tipped workers in personal care service sectors but excluded approximately 200,000 tipped restaurant workers, the vast majority of whom are women.
A large proportion of these restaurant workers – including bussers, runners, delivery workers, servers in diners, small immigrant-owned and casual restaurants, and more – earn very little in tips, unable to make the subminimum wage livable. In addition, New York still provides a subminimum wage for workers with disabilities, incarcerated workers, and gig workers.
It’s time for a change. New York State must meet this critical moment in time to ensure racial and economic justice for all in a post-COVID economy.
Now is the time for bold action. And with a new Governor and Administration leading New York,. there is a real opportunity to pursue a COVID-19 recovery that includes protections for tipped workers and pursues higher wages and safer environments.
The industry is changing. COVID-19 left tipped workers taking on the roles of health department enforcers, often met with extreme verbal and even physical harassment. Cases of “maskual harassment” have shot up, with customers harassing female workers to remove their masks, putting worker’s physical safety at risk just to recover potentially lost tips. And throughout this rise in harassment and increase in responsibilities for workers, far too many still receive subminimum wages. Tips are not and, especially now, have never been enough to properly compensate these workers.
With tips low and health risks, hostility, and harassment high, tens of thousands of restaurant workers have left the industry. Of those who remain, 53% of New York restaurant workers say they are also considering leaving the industry; 70% say it is due to low wages and tips, and 80% say they will only return with One Fair Wage – a full livable wage with tips on top. That’s why so many independent restaurateurs have raised their wages in order to attract talent, and many have joined forces with us asking for a policy to require that all workers be paid a full, livable wage with tips on top – so that they’re not raising wages all on their own.
That’s why we are calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to adopt One Fair Wage as a top policy priority and issue an executive order within the first 100 days of her leadership to guarantee a full minimum wage for restaurant workers, as a step toward a guaranteed full minimum wage for all.
Coming into an office shrouded in sexual and verbal harassment claims, Governor Hochul has a key opportunity to solidify herself as a champion for these workers who have faced increasingly toxic and dangerous work environments. By passing One Fair Wage as one of her first acts in office, Governor Hochul can take a major first step towards combating the toxic environment that the prior governor created.
Take action with us!
Achieving One Fair Wage will require all of us to speak up and demand New York lawmakers fairly compensate our tipped workers. Call your legislator today and ask them to sign onto Assembly Bill A2244 and Senate Bill S808.
In the News
RESTAURANT DIVE: How New York Gov. Kathy Hochul could impact restaurant workers
THE NEW YORK TIMES: How New York Waiters Got the Upper Hand