FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, October 8, 2020
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Leading Physicians and Public Health Scientists Warn Gov. Cuomo That Reopening Indoor Dining, With Workers Who Enforce Safety Procedures Dependent on Tips, Could Be a Public Health Disaster
Letter, White Paper Urge Gov. Cuomo to Enact a Full Minimum Wage for the 700K Restaurant Workers Around New York Whom the City Will Depend on to Uphold COVID-19 Safety Protocols
NEW YORK — More than 30 leading New York physicians and public health research scientists sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo warning that, unless he enacts One Fair Wage – a full minimum wage with tips on top – for New York restaurant workers, the re-opening of indoor dining in restaurants, with workers enforcing public health protocols on customers from whom they have to get tips, could be a public health disaster that could make New York the center of the COVID-19 pandemic yet again.
The letter reads,
“Restaurant workers can be instrumental in helping to implement these protective measures. However, they will be hesitant to do so, because they depend on tips for part of their basic wages and, thus, on the good will of customers. These workers – servers, bartenders, and other service workers – receive a subminimum wage in New York State, and are forced to obtain tips to earn the minimum wage. This situation provides a clear disincentive for restaurant workers to enforce critical safety measures for fear of angering or bothering customers upon whose tips they depend for basic wages to support themselves and their families.
“Restaurants and their workers have suffered so much during this pandemic. We urge you to enact a full minimum wage for all restaurant industry workers immediately. Any tips they receive should be on top of the basic minimum wage. It is a matter of basic fairness. It communicates to these workers that they are, indeed, essential. And, most important in the current public health crisis, it would enable restaurant workers to act, freed from an utter dependence on tips, to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing rules by customers.”
SEE THE FULL LETTER TO GOV. CUOMO HERE: http://onefairwage.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Governor-Cuomo-One-Fair-Wage-Public-Health-Letter-Final.pdf
The letter follows the release of a new white paper from the Barry Commoner Center for Health & the Environment at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley outlining how the very restaurant workers who will be the first in line of defense in enforcing state public health mandates as restaurants reopen and shift toward indoor dining are the same tipped service professionals who earn a subminimum wage that forces workers to obtain a large portion of their income from customer tips. The white paper was organized on behalf of One Fair Wage, a national organization seeking to lift millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers out of poverty.
“After months of unemployment, severe economic hardship and a trend in decreased overall tipping, workers will be forced to enforce public health measures upon the very people who pay their wages. This disincentive stands to pose grave risk not only to the 700,000 restaurant workers around New York, but also to the broader public,” the report reads.
Last month, the New York City Council voted to move forward on Intro 823, legislation that would allow restaurants in New York City to add a 10 percent surcharge to the final bill. One Fair Wage is warning that the proposed surcharge, without guarantees of employers paying a minimum wage, would hurt NYC’s restaurant workers – who would see additional cuts to tips. This would result in workers earning less money for more dangerous shifts, heightened by NYC restaurants reopening indoor dining to 25% capacity starting in October.
A recent report has also highlighted a substantial $8 wage gap between Black women and white men on New York dining floors – a 60% greater race gender wage gap than the nationwide gap – largely due to customer racism in tipping and racial segregation that results in Black women working more at casual restaurants where tips are less.