David Chang and other chefs say now is the time to fix the restaurant industry’s long-standing inequities

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Their “Safe and Just Reopening” plan calls for eliminating the tipped minimum wage, pooling tips, and tax relief for the restaurant business. If restaurants have struggled during the pandemic, restaurant workers are struggling even more, in part because their economic situation was already precarious before the outbreak. The federal subminimum wage for tipped workers is still the same as it was nearly 30 years ago: $2.13 an hour. Now, as many restaurants reopen and workers return, some restaurant owners are arguing that the industry needs to fundamentally change. Read Full Story

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‘Maskual harassment,’ angry customers, and no tips: The life of restaurant workers during COVID-19

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A new report on the restaurant industry in the pandemic details sexual comments, poor safety protocols, and cratering wages. Workers and advocates agree on the solution: raising the minimum wage. When Natasha, an employee at a neighborhood bar in Midtown Manhattan, takes customers’ temperatures at the door or politely asks them to pull up masks, she says it’s more common for them to aggressively push back than to comply. When she asked one guest to put on a mask, he told her he was going to wait outside the bar until she’d closed up, and then kill her. At that point, Natasha knew she wouldn’t receive a tip—and also feared for her life. Read Full Story

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A last-minute Trump administration rule could lower restaurant workers’ wages by $700 million a year

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Critics of the new rule say it could severely decrease servers’ incomes by making them do more work for fewer tips. Less than 30 days before Trump is due to leave office, his Labor Department has imposed a rule that may significantly affect the wages of restaurant workers. By one estimate, it may collectively cost tipped workers more than $700 million a year. Read Full Story

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A $15 federal minimum wage would reshape the lives of working people. Can Biden deliver?

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Between the emergency of the pandemic and wage increases at the state level, we’ve never been closer to a national $15 minimum wage. Saru Jayaraman likes to say the restaurant industry had a “pre-existing condition” long before the pandemic. “It was already the nation’s second largest private sector employer with the absolute lowest wage jobs of any industry,” says Jayaraman, the cofounder and president of One Fair Wage . The pandemic only exacerbated the financial insecurity of working in the restaurant industry—but with the added threat of contracting a dangerous virus. “Millions and millions of these workers were forced to go back to work before they felt safe or ready because they got no benefits, [and] they had no choice,” she says. “And what our data has shown is that when they went back to work, it was a nightmare.” Read Full Story

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GoFundMe campaign is tipping service workers screwed by SXSW cancellation

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Most donated tips are $10-$50. A branding agency in Austin, Texas, has launched a GoFundMe page to tip the local service workers impacted by the cancellation of this month’s South by Southwest festival. “Thousands of Austin service workers and musicians will be hit significantly from canceled events, lost wages and tips. We’ll take the funds to Austin music venues, restaurants, bars and hotels and distribute them to individuals from March 13-22,” write the fund’s creators, from the agency T3 . Read Full Story

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A doctor’s guide to reopening businesses safely

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Dr. Po-Chang Hsu explains the necessary conditions to safely welcome back customers and workers. The pandemic has taken a devastating economic toll on businesses worldwide. The fallout is brutal in the United States, where COVID-19 case numbers are rising again, cause for additional concern during the colder months. Nearly 100,000 businesses in industries like the retail and restaurant sectors have closed. Many companies that were granted pandemic relief assistance during the initial lockdown phase were able to stay afloat. Read Full Story

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This new program gives funds to California restaurants if they serve free meals and commit to fair wages

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High Road Kitchens wants to use the pandemic to rebuild a more fair restaurant industry. At Hook and Ladder, a restaurant in Sacramento, California, a new item on the menu is available on a sliding scale: $10 for some customers, $20 for those who can afford to pay more, and $0 for those who can’t afford to pay anything now. The restaurant is one of several to participate in a new program created to help solve an immediate need in the coronavirus crisis—and to reshape the future of the service industry at a time when the inequities of the sector are glaringly obvious. Read Full Story

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It’s now been 11 years since we raised the federal minimum wage

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It’s the longest period without a raise in the history of the minimum wage. The last time the U.S. federal minimum wage was raised was July 24, 2009. For 11 years—now the longest period without a raise in the history of the minimum wage—the federal floor for earnings has been set at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year. Over the course of those 11 years, that amount has lost its buying power to inflation, even as the cost of so many necessities has risen . With the country in an economic crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers are calling for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour to not only help workers, but also boost struggling businesses. Read Full Story

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Hoffa: This holiday season, give essential workers the unions they deserve

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On this pandemic Black Friday, Teamsters president James P. Hoffa says that workers fighting for better wages and more rights is the only way to counteract the rise of underpaid, dangerous jobs at Amazon and other companies that we are buying from today. This was already a devastating year for hard-working Americans, struggling to keep their jobs amid a pandemic made worse by corporate greed. Now, with the holiday season underway, “essential workers” employed in warehouses, delivering goods, and stocking grocery shelves find themselves in an even bigger crunch. Read Full Story

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It’s time to end the law that lets businesses pay less to people with disabilities

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In 2020, businesses can still legally pay their employees with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage—we need to put an end to this. The continued struggles of women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities to achieve equality in the workplace are partly the result of societal and cultural forces, but they differ in at least one key respect: The law explicitly enables employers to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. In other words, under the law, individuals with disabilities may earn less than their colleagues who are not disabled due to a trait they cannot change. Read Full Story

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