RAISING WAGES TO REOPEN
Restaurants Nationwide Raising Wages to SaveTheir Businesses After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive upheaval in the US restaurant industry. After generations of restaurant owners paying tipped workers a subminimum wage — a legacy of slavery that is still $2.13 an hour at the federal level — restaurant workers are refusing to work for anything less than a full, livable wage with tips on top.Their refusal has resulted in thousands of restaurants raising their wages nationwide. This brief provides only an initial snapshot of the diversity and brief of wage increases in restaurants happening across the country. In total, in just a 2 week period, we have documented over 1,600 restaurants that have raised wages to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top, with an average wage of about $13.50 — across 41 states in which the vast majority ofrestaurants were paying a subminimum wage of $5 or less earlier this year.
The pandemic exacerbated the economic instability and vulnerability of tipped workers receiving a subminimum wage. With COVID-19, 6 million restaurant workers lost their jobs,
and nearly two thirds reported to One Fair Wage that they faced great challenges accessing unemployment insurance because in many states they were told their wages were too
low to qualify for benefits. When millions returned to work last summer, a majority reported that their tips decreased dramatically and health risks, customer hostility, and sexual
harassment increased with equal intensity. As a result, after the National Restaurant Association had argued for generations that it would be impossible to pay a full, livable wage
to restaurant workers, thousands of restaurants nationwide have raised their wages in 2021 — a majority of whom are paying a full minimum wage with tips on top.