By CARMEN SAFFIOTI
A group of local restaurant owners on Thursday urged Governor Cuomo to follow Mayor de Blasio’s lead in supporting legislation to end sub minimum wage for restaurant workers whose tips have been severely curtailed during the COVID19 pandemic.
In ordinary times restaurant owners are permitted to pay servers and other workers less than the minimum wage because most of their earnings come from tips. But these were not ordinary times, the group’s organizers indicated at a digital ceremony sponsored by local restaurants.
. This comes after Mayor de Blasio announced last week announced a $3 million plan that provides funding to restaurants that were shut down due to COVID-19.
“As somebody that has grown up in the restaurant business and been front, back, and side of the house,” said Russell Jackson, chef and owner of a Harlem cafe Reverence, “I can truly say that there have been many, many years and times where I clearly saw the element of wage disparity amongst the different groups and saw that it was never fair.”
Jackson, a recipient of city aid, added: “I’m happy to hear that the government has been responding to the aspects of what we want for the local, and now we really need to push the state. We need to get the governor to take actions.”
There are only 7 states, not including New York, where restaurants are required to pay their tipped employees the minimum wage. This creates a problem for employees who want to apply for unemployment benefits because their wage is too low to qualify for benefits.
During a rally in Times Square on Monday, President of One Fair Wage Saru Jayaraman read a report showing an $8 wage gap between black women and white men in local eateries. Organizers say that the current sub-minimum wage and tip model fosters wage discrimination based on race.
“Most people do not work in high-end fancy restaurants,” High Roads Restaurant advocate Mikey Knab said in an interview. “They work in chain restaurants or dive bars where they don’t make $40 an hour in tips. They go home making barely above the wages in tips and by and large most of those people tend to be people of color.”
In the current racial climate, those seeking a fair wage believe that their efforts were essential for achieving racial justice. Knab added: “People in the front of the house tend to be white and male, and people in the back of the house are often people of color and women.”
This becomes a special problem in New York State, the only state where tip sharing is banned.
Restaurants in low income neighborhoods were given priority for the grants