Tipping is a quintessential American custom. In the U.S. consumers tip for services ranging from baggage handlers at the airport to housekeepers at hotels. But according to some analysts, tipping has created an environment where restaurant servers are subjected to sexual harassment and low pay.
About 70% of tipped workers in the restaurant industry are women and about 45% are people of color. In a recent study by One Fair Wage and UC Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center over 78% of restaurant workers reported witnessing hostile behavior from customers who were asked to follow Covid-19 safety protocols, more than 40% noticed a change in the frequency of unwanted sexual comments from customers and 83% said their tips had declined during the pandemic.
With Covid-19 leaving millions to do essential work for low pay there have been renewed calls for a $15 minimum wage and the elimination of the tipped minimum wage — the base salary for many restaurant workers. Forty three states, including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, have a tipped minimum wage for workers who in some cases are paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employer.
But many in the full-service restaurant industry oppose the proposed changes, saying they would lead to higher menu prices and fewer hours for workers. According to the National Restaurant Association, the pandemic has already enacted a devastating toll on the industry, wiping out 2.5 million restaurant jobs and more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments in 2020 alone. Watch the above video to find out what the $15 minimum wage and the elimination of the tipped minimum wage would mean for restaurants and their employees.