Today, One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit organization representing subminimum wage and other tipped workers, in partnership with #TimesUp, the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, Professor Catharine MacKinnon, Professor Louise Fitzgerald and the Barry Commoner Center for Health & the Environment, released a new report detailing the shocking experience of service workers' experience in arenas of health and harassment during the pandemic.
The report, titled Take Off Your Mask So I Know How Much to Tip You, exposes major implications on public health as the pandemic enters its second wave across the United States.
Read the report here www.onefairwage.site/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/OFW_COVID_WorkerExp.pdf .
Specifically, the report found that:
44% of service workers reported that at least one or more of their coworkers in their restaurant contracted COVID.
84% of workers report being within six feet of at least one person who is not wearing a mask in every shift, and 33% report being within six feet of 30 or more maskless individuals on every shift.
89% of workers reported that their employer is not consistently following COVID safety protocols
25% of surveyed workers indicated that their employer does not provide them with any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to wear that would keep them or their customers safe.
83% report their tips have declined during the pandemic. 66% report that their tips have declined by more than half.
78% of workers report experiencing or witnessing hostile behavior from customers in response to enforcing safety protocols - and 59% experience that hostility weekly.
58% report feeling reluctant to enforce COVID protocols out of concerns that it would result in less tips, with 67% reporting receiving smaller tips after enforcing such protocols on customers.
41% of workers reported a notable change in the frequency of unwanted sexual comments from customers, and 25% say they have experience or witnessed a significant change in the frequency of such harassment.
"Service workers are facing a clear crisis, unable to protect themselves or enforce the safety protocols needed to protect the public. Women are literally being asked to expose themselves to illness and death for the pleasure of male customers - and all for a subminimum wage. Now, more than ever, eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers is a public health emergency," explained Saru Jayraman, executive director of One Fair Wage. "If we want to stop COVID hotspots, we must ensure these workers are paid a full minimum wage and can enforce safety protocols and resist sexaul abuse undermining their ability to feed themselves and their families."
With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the report makes it clear that service workers and their communities are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19, and that often they do not have the adequate protection or work under the proper safety protocols to prevent COVID-19's spread.
The overwhelming majority of the workers who responded to the survey reported that their tips had declined significantly with the pandemic, and that the decline is exacerbated when they attempt to enforce COVID-19 safety measures like wearing masks while dining and not eating. As a result, workers, who are already suffering, report they are unwilling to enforce safety protocols for fear of losing more tips.
Making matters worse, workers said that comments by customers indicate that they feel entitled to demand that workers remove their protective gear, exposing them to the risk of illness or death, in order to obtain the tips they need to make a base wage. 43% of women surveyed said that they themselves received or witnessed unwanted sexual comments related to COVID-19 protocols. The report documents more than 250 examples, including:
"Pull that mask down so I can see if I want to take you home later."
"Come on, sweetie. Lemme see that pretty face under there. Take it off for me, will you? Just a quick flash."
"I can't ever imagine myself social distancing from your sexy ass."
"I bet you're so hot under that mask.. I wouldn't be able to stay six feet from you.. Come back to my place, we don't have to wear masks."
"All of these experiences of the intersection of public health hazards with sexual harassment point to a clear minimal solution: requiring all restaurants pay One Fair Wage: a full minimum wage with tips on top. Paying workers a full minimum wage with tips on top would reduce their dependence on tips and thus their vulnerability to harassment," added Jayaraman. "Previous studies have indicated that the 7 states with One Fair Wage have half the rate of sexual harassment as states with a subminimum wage of $2.13 an hour have. Paying workers a full minimum wage would empower them to enforce safety protocols on customers and to reject sexual harassment and the life-threatening demands on women to remove their masks for the sexual pleasure of customers."
Nearly 10 million tipped and other service workers have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, the majority of whom were unable to access unemployment benefits through their states because they earned the subminimum wage for tipped workers (still $2.13 an hour at the federal level and $5 of less in nearly 40 states.) For those still working, tips are down roughly 50-75% since the pandemic began.
One Fair Wage is a national coalition, campaign and organization seeking to lift millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers nationally out of poverty by requiring all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top.