New Report: Broad Bipartisan Support for Supporting Restaurant Workers

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The strain on the restaurant industry during this pandemic has been extreme: whether forced to close entirely or desperately calling in their staff to meet delivery demands, small businesses in this industry–and the workers who keep those businesses open–have been nothing short of kneecapped. New measures offer some hope, but workers across the country have been laid off and without employment for months. 

These workers, under the best of circumstances, make only $2.13 per hour–far below the federal minimum wage, but reduced by a belief in the viability of a tip-based livelihood. This means that these workers rely on their tips and the willingness of their bosses to provide both wages and benefits–with little protection when instability or poor practices arise. 

But this doesn’t have to continue. Much as the pandemic has changed public opinion across a variety of areas, new polling from Data for Progress reveals that 78% of likely voters polled supported changing federal minimum wage laws to require that the minimum wage be applied to all workers, regardless of whether they are in an industry where tips are customary. This includes, actually, 78% of Republicans. Support is strong across all education levels and groups.

Groups like OneFairWage (www.onefairwage.com) are fighting for essential benefits for restaurant workers including a $15 minimum wage. But there’s much that can be done at both the federal and state level, and legislators are beginning to show interest. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will be appearing with OneFairWage on The Appeal’s Briefing today to hear from impacted workers and talk about what the government can do to help. But given the new polling’s revelations about how popular relief would be, Sen. Gillibrand may be just the first of a line of legislators to realize their constituents will be demanding change.

The full report is available here.

The Justice Collaborative Institute is a coalition of justice reform scholars from across the nation focused on providing an academic perspective to conversations and work surrounding mass incarceration and related issues.