Fair Wages and Sexual Harassment

waitressFor several summers and even during the school term, my daughter earned her keep by waiting tables. Her assignments varied from locavore delights at a small college town luncheonette to the midnight shift at a shiny New Jersey diner. Other jobs included burgers & fries in a tavern, strictly kosher fare on the Jersey Shore, and even some inappropriate attention in a revealing costume at a cocktail lounge in the big city. Now she has finished her education and gone on to her chosen profession at a large university … she is adamant that she will never wait tables again.

I don’t doubt it but I still tell her that she will always have a skill that she can use anywhere in the world if she needs to cover the basic necessities like food and shelter. But at the same time I realize that working for tips is a difficult way to earn a living and too often leads to being taken advantage of, by patrons and bosses.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Why shouldn’t a waitress earn a living from the salary she receives doing a job? Then, although in this modern world I suggest it should be abolished entirely, the gratuity added to the bill will once again become an indicator of having received good service and not just an obligatory method for restaurant owners to get the public to pay for their wait staff. It makes you wonder how, in a country where all men are created equal, we can tolerate so many examples of systematic inequality and the overt favoritism shown for the more powerful and rich elements of the society.

What would Jesus say?

But there is another problem with the American system of “tip wages” and it involves the sexual harassment of women. The following is from Nation of Change. The article, including a video from Democracy Now, is an eye-opener.

Campaigners Call for ‘One Fair Wage’ to Help End Sexual Harassment for Tipped Restaurant Workers

Democracy NowA new report finds up to 90 percent of women working restaurant jobs that depend on tips have experienced workplace sexual harassment. More than 70 percent of tipped workers are women, and female restaurant workers are especially vulnerable to harassment in states where tipped workers earn a federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. Today, just seven states require employers pay a regular minimum wage before tips. We speak with Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which has released a new report, “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.” Jayaraman is director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of “Behind the Kitchen Door.” We also speak with restaurant worker, Ashley Ogogor, and with former waitress, Eve Ensler, the award-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues. She helped create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, and the One Billion Rising campaign, which is now in its third year.

Amy Goodman starts the report …

We end today’s show with a look at a new report that finds up to 90 percent of women working restaurant jobs that depend on tips have experienced workplace sexual harassment. Over 70 percent of tipped workers are women, and female restaurant workers are especially vulnerable to harassment in states where tipped workers earn a federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. The federal minimum for non-tipped workers is $7.25. The new report is called “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.” It was released by the nonprofit workers’ advocacy group, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which also produced this video featuring a restaurant server named Aisha Thurman.

AISHA THURMAN: Most of the restaurant owners are men. So, on that end, I’m already, you know, losing. It seems like men, they just say whatever they want. And they think, you know, my body is for them to enjoy, to look at, touch, say what they want. They think if they throw me a couple dollars in the form of a tip, it’s OK.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, just seven states require employers pay a regular minimum wage before tips; they’re California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Minnesota, Nevada and Montana. Well, on Tuesday, living-wage activists will draw attention to efforts that would expand this number. They’re holding a national day of action called “Not on the Menu: Rally Against Sexual Harassment.” Here in New York, they’ll rally at City Hall to call on lawmakers to support “One Fair Wage” and end what they call “legalized pay discrimination against tipped workers.”

For more, we’re joined by a number of guests.

 

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