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The woman serving you your meal tonight may not be earning enough to feed herself.  The recently released Restaurant Opportunities Centers United report “Tipped Over,” found that seven of the ten lowest-paid occupations are in the restaurant industry which employs 10 million workers, the majority of them women.  In addition to earning low and poverty-level wages, women restaurant workers experience discrimination, sexual harassment, occupational segregation, and lack of paid sick days and career mobility.

Documenting the exploitation and sanctioned discriminatory practices leveled by the restaurant industry against its tipped workers, this ground-breaking report clearly articulates the need to raise the tipped minimum wage to elevate the dignity and quality of life of all working families.

The federal tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 an hour for two decades.  As many as a third of all U.S. workers – 35 to 46 million people – hold low-wage jobs that offer few prospects for advancement or wage growth. Women and women of color are particularly hard hit.

Sierra Trujillo, a 9to5 Colorado member, has worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years.  She shared that she and her co-workers know what it’s like to be undervalued by management, paid low-wages, and lack paid sick days. And Ree Bain, a 9to5 member from Atlanta, expressed her frustration with the industry saying: “I have no vacation days. No sick days. No overtime. No health insurance.  If I don’t get tipped, I have to pay the establishment money out of my own pocket. Every night I ‘tip-out’ bartenders, bus-boys and baristas.  In what other profession do these practices occur?”

The sad reality is that these discriminatory and exploitative practices, though unethical, are legally permitted in the restaurant industry.  9to5 is working with women like Sierra and Ree in supporting several policy proposals to improve working conditions for restaurant workers, including the Wages Act (HR 631). The bill would raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $2.13/hr to $5.50/hr over several years. While employers are required to make up the difference between tips and the minimum wage, the ROC United report found that employers frequently ignore the requirement.

The abysmal rate at which tipped workers (70 percent of them women) are paid is putting women and their families at risk. It’s hard enough to survive on these poverty-level wages, let alone support a family when the costs of housing, food, medical care, child care and transportation are rising.

Join 9to5 and help us fight for family-supporting jobs with decent wages, family health care and family-flexible policies. Contact 9to5 through its Job Survival Helpline at (800) 522.0925 or visit www.9to5.org for more information on how to take action. Women are worth more than $2.13/hr!

About 9to5, National Association of Working Women: 9to5 is one of the largest national membership-based organizations of working women in the U.S.  Founded in 1973, 9to5’s mission is to build a movement to achieve economic justice, by engaging directly affected women to improve working conditions.  To learn more about 9to5 and the Wages Act, visit 9to5.org.


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