In response to New York Governor Cuomo’s announcement that he would enact One Fair Wage, a full minimum wage with tips included, for all tipped laborers except restaurant workers, a group of women restaurant workers and their allies staged a mass public self-defense training in front of the Governor’s office in Manhattan Monday—demanding One Fair Wage and raising awareness about sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. The event focused specifically on how tipped minimum wage workers face the highest level of sexual harassment than any other profession.
A letter signed by nearly 30 advocacy and women’s rights organizations was also delivered to the Governor at the event Monday, urging him to take immediate action to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for restaurant and other hospitality workers in New York—as he recently did for nail salon, car wash and other tipped workers. Organizations who co-signed the letter include One Fair Wage, One Billion Rising, Make the Road New York, Citizen Action of New York, National Employment Law Project, National Women’s Law Center, New York Civil Liberties Union, The New York Women’s Foundation, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault and more.
In New York State, 70 percent of restaurant workers are women. Recent polling has demonstrated that the vast majority of New York State tipped workers support the One Fair Wage proposal.
“Even though he announced that he would review the sub-minimum wage in 2017 specifically in order to address sexual harassment in the restaurant industry,” One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said at the event, “Governor Cuomo instead gave One Fair Wage to other tipped workers and excluded restaurant workers—thus leaving them vulnerable to the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry because of their reliance on tips. At a time that President Trump is taking tipped workers’ federal rights a way, instead of rolling over to the power of the National Restaurant Association, Governor Cuomo should follow through and enact One Fair Wage for all.”
Speakers at the protest included playwright and V-Day and One Billion Rising founder Eve Ensler, TIMES UP members and actors Carmen LoBue and Alysia Reiner, social justice musician Taina Asili and multiple female restaurant workers who discussed personal experiences of workplace harassment they dealt with while relying on tips to feed their families and pay their bills.
“I am rising on February 3rd to honor and protect restaurant workers and to demand that they receive one fair wage that they so richly deserve, and which will help protect them from sexual abuse on the job,” said Eve Ensler. “Our Women Workers Rising action joins the thousands of One Billion Rising creative resistance actions taking place throughout the U.S. and the world—where women are rising up on the stage, in the streets and in front of government offices to demand changes in the policies and culture that sustain violence and inequality. We will rise until the violence stops.”