One Fair Wage: Public Hearings to Raise Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees
There are two tiers of workers in New York: Those who are guaranteed the regular minimum wage and a reliable paycheck; and those who are paid a sub-minimum wage plus customer-given tips, and do not know how much they will earn each week. Tipped workers toil in restaurants, car washes, nail salons, and other industries where employers have their labor costs subsidized by their customers.
The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers results in low pay, rampant sexual harassment, wage theft, exploitation of immigrant workers, and dangerous work conditions.
NOW we have a chance to right that wrong.
Governor Cuomo has ordered the Department of Labor to hold hearings around the state on this issue and we need to stand with these hard-working men and women. New York’s poorest and lowest-paid workers need One Fair Wage plus tips to make ends meet and support their families.
Please RSVP below to join us at these public hearings to make a statement or learn more about how to support this campaign and increase wages for exploited workers across New York State. But first, learn more about why tipped workers need One Fair Wage.
LOW PAY, LONG HOURS, FEW BENEFITS
Tipped workers are among the poorest workers in New York. Tipping practices are irregular, and some tipped industries are seasonal, so workers can’t rely on earning a steady income week to week or month to month. Much of their paycheck goes toward taxes, so it’s no surprise that many tipped workers must rely on food stamps, housing support, and Medicaid just to make ends meet.
Restaurant servers, 61% of whom are women, experience poverty at more than double the statewide rate. Tipped restaurant workers in New York who work full-time year-round earn a median income of just $22,000 a year, including tips.
Nail salon workers in New York earn as little as $60 – $65 per day as base pay – and sometimes as little as $35 per day. In some extreme cases, workers are expected to work 84 hours a week, earning an average of $10.19 per hour, including tips. The median yearly income is $21,200.
Car wash workers in New York report taking home as little as $125 a week with short or nonexistent breaks and are frequently sent home without pay depending on the weather. The overwhelming majority of car wash employees do not receive paid sick days or health care. Car wash workers routinely work 12- to 14-hour days, 6 or 7 days a week.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND EXPLOITATION OF IMMIGRANT WORKERS
A sub-minimum wage increases gender pay inequity by forcing tipped workers to rely on customers’ goodwill to survive, which exposes countless women to sexual harassment. The sub-minimum wage also increases exploitation of immigrant workers, as they are less likely to call the authorities when an employer steals wages or puts workers in dangerous work conditions.
Restaurant servers, 61% female, experience the worst rates of sexual harassment of any industry because they must tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to get enough in tips to feed their families. Sexual harassment is also rampant on the management side of the restaurant industry. 97% of nail technicians are immigrant women, primarily Asian and Latina, and have limited English proficiency. Car wash workers are primarily immigrants, hailing largely from Latin American and African countries.
Since many restaurants, car washes, and nail salons operate primarily in cash, with poor bookkeeping practices, and with a largely immigrant workforce, there are many opportunities for wage theft and exploitation. A policy of One Fair Wage would limit such opportunities by creating a standard wage floor for all workers.
The US Department of Labor reported that 83.8% of restaurants had some type of wage and hour violation, including 1,170 tip credit violations, which resulted in nearly $5.5 million in back wages, due to complicated tip credit and wage rules.
The NYS Department of Labor found that in New York City alone, 4 out of 5 car washes were stealing their workers’ wages. Specifically, 79% of employers did not pay minimum wage and overtime, nearly 40% of employers had managers illegally sharing in tips, and 86% of employers committed record-keeping violations. Workers report that employers sometimes withhold tips for alleged damage to customer cars or inflate them in their bookkeeping to avoid paying workers their sub-minimum base pay.
In nail salons, few clients realize that workers earn a sub-minimum wage and are dependent on tips to earn a living, thus tipping frequency and rates are low. In New York, nail salon business is seasonal, and during the slow winter months, workers rarely earn enough to bring their wages up to the minimum wage and their employers often don’t make up the difference.
DANGEROUS WORK CONDITIONS
Tipped workers rarely speak up about dangerous work conditions because their pay is so low and their work so precarious that losing a job can mean losing a home and the ability to put food on the table. In nail salons, workers regularly work 10-hour shifts in a toxic environment without proper protective equipment. They are also often denied lunch breaks. Nail salon workers are often forced into the position of choosing between their health and paying their bills.
Car wash workers are exposed to offensive cleaning and degreasing substances, and they work around high-pressure hoses, unguarded machinery, and poorly protected electrical sources that are close to wet surfaces. Few workers are provided with protective equipment or with information on the hazardous chemicals they work with. When gloves are provided, they are often of poor quality, allowing soap and chemicals to contact their skin.
BETTER WAGES, BETTER TIPS: 7 STATES ARE LEADING THE WAY
Seven states – California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Montana, and Minnesota – do not have a two-tier wage system and pay all workers the same minimum wage. Poverty rates and sexual harassment claims are lower than the rest of the country, tipping rates in the restaurant industry are the same or better, and the restaurant industry is thriving in those states. One Fair Wage is a proven policy solution that Gov. Cuomo should embrace. All workers deserve fair pay.
Please RSVP here for the June 26th public hearing for the non-hospitality industry employees.
Please RSVP here for the June 27th public hearing for hospitality / restaurant industry employees.
32BJ SEIU, A Better Balance, Adhikaar, ALIGN NY, Citizen Action of NY, Community Service Society, Enlace, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Judson Memorial Church, Make the Road NY, Metro Justice, The Nail Salon Organizing Project, NELP, National Organization for Women-NY, New Economy Project, NY Communities for Change, NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, NY Latina Advocacy Network, NYSCASA, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, PowHerNY, ROC-NY, ROC United, RWDSU, SEPA Mujer, Strong Economy for All, Tompkins County Workers Center, UltraViolet, Women’s Equality Party, Women’s Organizing Network, Workers United NY NJ.
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