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On Wednesday, 2/13, we joined the Restaurant Opportunity Center's National Day of Action, pointing to the fact that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is still just $2.13 an hour, a rate that hasn’t changed in nearly 40 years.

With Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and other co-sponsors and ROC members, our press conference called for the elimination of the sub-minimum wage in Massachusetts, where the current rate for tipped workers is $4.35 an hour. Our "One Fair Wage" bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers incrementally to require the full minimum wage by 2028.

Workers from the service industry shared personal stories about economic instability, discrimination, and their own #MeToo experiences in the workplace.

I'm optimistic this year about One Fair Wage because:

- It's a national movement, with bills introduced in Congress and 15 states to raise the minimum wage for everyone. 
Seven states, including California, require restaurants to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top; these states have higher restaurant sales per capita, higher job growth in the industry, higher tipping averages, and half the rate of sexual harassment in the industry.

- Pay Equity and Income Inequality: 70% of tipped workers in Mass. are women, but they earn only 70% of what their male counterparts make. For African American female servers, the disparity is even greater: they earn only 60% of what male servers are paid, costing them more than $400,000 over a lifetime.  "The women who put food on our tables cannot afford to put food on their own families' tables,” said Rep. Farley-Bouvier.

- The #MeToo movement: The problem isn't just income inequality, but power disparity.  35% of tipped workers in the Greater Boston area reported that they have been sexually harassed by customers, which is more than twice as many as non-tipped workers.

- Awareness of the legacy of slavery:  The tipping system in the US began with former slaves, such as railroad porters, being paid nothing by their employers and depending on tips for their income.  In 1900 the majority of tipped workers were former slaves.
“Wearing lipstick or not wearing lipstick should not determine our wages. Having short hair, long hair, or no hair should not determine our wages. The color of a woman’s skin should not be the factor in earning a livable wage versus a unlivable wage. Someone not liking the way you look should never determine what you go home with in wages. Being a woman should not play a factor in whether or not we can afford to thrive independently or provide for our families,” said Emma Ruff, a server who spoke at the press event.
“I have quickly learned that upsetting customers isn’t worth it. It’s sad to say that I’d rather be catcalled than to lose tips,” said Marie Billiel, a tipped food service worker. “When faced with the threat of eviction, what choice is there?”
Our bills have broad, bipartisan support from legislators, with a current total of 40 co-sponsors including Representatives Mike Connolly, Denise Provost, and Maria Robinson, who also attended the press conference.
The legislation also has organizational support, including the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, MassEquity, PHENOM: Public Higher Education Network of MA, MassNow, Asian American Resource Workshop, Interfaith Worker Justice, MA Jobs with Justice, City Life/Vida Urbana, Ujima Project, Right to the City, Democratic Socialists of America, SouthEast Asian Worker Center, Boston Jobs Coalition, among others.
For more on this issue, see my previous newsletter: #MeToo in the Restaurant Industry.

UPDATE 2/14:  Yesterday I was appointed chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, which will consider this issue and many others affecting income inequality.

                                                                   All best wishes,
Copyright © *Committee to Re-Elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

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CTE Pat Jehlen, 67 Dane St, Somerville MA 02143

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