Coronavirus: Fund Set Up to Deliver Money To Tipped Workers

BOSTON (State House News Service) — The One Fair Wage Campaign has launched what it's describing as a "massive online fundraising effort" for an emergency cash assistance fund to support tipped and service workers nationwide facing economic hardship amid coronavirus-driven closures of restaurants and other businesses where they work.

The goal, One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said in a statement, is "to give as many workers as possible cash assistance of $213." Jayaraman said that amount is "a nod to the horrific $2.13 federal sub-minimum wage for tipped workers."

The campaign, which advocates eliminating sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, is arguing that unemployment insurance is insufficient for workers who derive much of their income from tips.

An emergency order from Gov. Charlie Baker required the state's restaurants and bars to shut down their on-premises service and transition to takeout and delivery only. Local restaurants have been scrambling to adjust their operations and develop options for staff.

The minimum wage for tipped workers in Massachusetts is currently $4.95, while the standard minimum wage is $12.75. Both wage floors are scheduled to gradually rise under a 2018 law, with the standard minimum wage slated to hit $15 in 2023. The tipped minimum wage will rise to $6.75 in 2023.

State law requires employers to make up the nearly $8 per hour difference between the standard and tipped minimum wages if gratuities are insufficient.

A pair of bills, filed by Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Sen. Patricia Jehlen, would do away with the lower tipped wage in Massachusetts and require all employees be paid the same minimum wage, regardless of whether they receive tips.

The Labor and Workforce Development Committee, which has had custody of the bills (H 1617, S 1082) since January 2019, extended its review period and gave itself a June 5 deadline to report them out. The committee's House chair post has been vacant since Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur resigned from the Legislature last November.

At a rally in support of the legislation last June, Farley-Bouvier said that of the state's 166,000 workers covered by the lower tipped rate, 67 percent are women, including 74 percent of restaurant servers — but those female servers make less than 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues. The restaurant industry has cautioned that the change would burden business owners and create additional costs that would be passed on to consumers.

The One Fair Wage campaign has set up a website where interested workers can apply and be screened to receive assistance from their fund, and others can contribute.

by Katie Lannan, State House News Service

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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