Tipped Workers Describe Harassment on Job
By Kaitlyn Budion
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Contributing to a national day of action, restaurant industry workers told personal stories last Wednesday and framed the issue of tipped worker wages as a matter of women’s rights.
Legislators and representatives from the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) gathered in the Statehouse to advocate for tipped workers to make the same minimum wage as other workers.
Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Sen. Patricia Jehlen touted their bill filed as part of the “One Fair Wage” movement. An Act Requiring One Fair Wage is part of a national push to raise the tipped wage. The Massachusetts bill raises the tipped minimum wage to the general minimum wage by 2027, and matches any increase after that.
“In doing so it would bring thousands of workers out of poverty, reduce sexual harassment in the workplace and decrease the wage gap between male and female tipped workers,” Farley-Bouvier said.
The date for the day of action, 2-13 was chosen to represent the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13.
The Massachusetts tipped worker minimum wage is $4.35, while the general minimum wage is $12, and scheduled to rise to $15 by 2023.
Relying on tips for income forces women who work in restaurants to tolerate harassment, and women make far less than their male counterparts, press conference participants said.
Women make up almost 70 percent of tipped workers in the commonwealth, but make only 70 percent of what men in the industry make, according to ROC. African American women make even less, at 60 percent of what men earn.
The group said that 78 percent of female restaurant staff reported experiencing sexual harassment from customers, and areas that pay servers the full minimum wage see harassment rates cut in half.
Women from the restaurant industry spoke about harassment they have suffered at work, from someone grabbing their butt to having a man wonder aloud what she would look like wearing a corset he just bought for his wife.
Emma Ruff, a server, spoke about feeling the need to accept tips from customers even as they harassed her because she had to pay her bills.
“Someone not liking the way you look should never determine what you go home with in wages,” she said. “Point blank, being a woman should not play a factor in whether or not we can afford to thrive independently or provide for our families.”