Illinois Service Workers Experience of Health & Harassment During Covid-19
COVID-19’s devastation of the service sector has been well documented, including the closure of thousands of independently-owned restaurants and the unemployment, underemployment, and impoverishment of thousands of food service workers in Illinois. Destitution among workers can be traced in large part to the subminimum wage for tipped workers, still $2.13 an hour at the Federal level. A legacy of slavery, the subminimum wage for tipped workers persists in Illinois and in 42 other states, which has subjected a largely female workforce of servers, bartenders, bussers, and others to economic instability and the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry for decades. Thus far through the pandemic, 60% of tipped workers report being unable to access unemployment insurance because their subminimum wage was too low to meet minimum state thresholds for benefits qualification.