December 9, 2021

U.S. Veterans

U.S.A Veterans News, Support & Information

How COVID Exacerbates Harassment In Service Industry

2 min read

How has COVID exacerbated harassment in the service industry? John Iadarola and Saru Jayaraman break it down on The Damage Report. Follow The Damage Report on Facebook:

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"COVID-19’s devastation of the service sector has been well documented, including the closure of thousands of independently-owned restaurants1 and the unemployment, underemployment, and impoverishment of millions of food service workers nationwide.2 Destitution among workers can be traced in large part to the subminimum wage for tipped workers, still $2.13 an hour at the Federal level. A legacy of slavery,3 the subminimum wage for tipped workers persists in 43 states, and has subjected a largely female workforce of servers, bartenders, bussers, and others to economic instability and the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry for decades.4 With the pandemic, 60% of tipped workers reporting being unable to access unemployment insurance because their subminimum wage was too low to meet minimum state thresholds for benefits qualification.5 Now, thousands of tipped service workers are returning to work as many restaurants have re-opened for indoor dining. No previous study, however, has thoroughly documented service workers’ experiences of returning to work in restaurants during the pandemic.

Understanding these workers’ experiences is critical not only to addressing the needs of these workers and their families, but also to stemming the growing public health crisis. The CDC reported in September 2020 that adults are twice as likely to contract the virus after eating in a restaurant.6 Food service workers have become essential workers and de facto public health marshals, enforcing critical mask and social distancing protocols in one of the pandemic’s most dangerous spreading environments. Unfortunately, unlike all other essential workers, they are not routinely guaranteed a standard minimum wage and thus live at the mercy of customers’ tips."

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