The State Wage Board’s recommendation Friday to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers is a step in the right direction. Coming after more than a year of picketing and outreach in front of the State Department of Labor by service worker members and supporters of the Justice Will Be Served Campaign, this recommendation finally ends the discriminatory exclusion of tipped workers from the 2013 minimum-wage increase in New York State.
Now Governor Cuomo has a chance to set things right for tipped workers. The Wage Board’s recommendation of an increase to $7.50 an hour falls short of what is needed. It is too little, too late. $7.50 is still a poverty wage in New York. Governor Cuomo should raise the minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers immediately–and not delay until the end of the year–and tie it to inflation.
Moreover, he should enforce the labor law to make any increase real. Delivery workers, busboys, and nail salon workers are among those making as little as $2 an hour. Some are not paid a wage but told to rely on tips. Yet, many report tips being illegally pocketed by their employers.
Tips are also vital to tipped workers’ wages and need to be protected. With an increase in wages for tipped workers, employers will try to use other means to generate profits. For example, in New York City’s Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, already 30% of the restaurants have raised the prices of food on their menu and posted notices on the wall instructing customers not to tip. In light of these practices, we call on the State to strengthen enforcement to prevent tip stealing. Enact new legal protections for workers so that employers cannot discourage customers from tipping or forbid their employees from informing customers that tips are not included. In the event that they do, employers shouldbe held responsible for the lost tipped wages.
The Justice Will Be Served Campaign is sponsored by the Chinese Staff & Workers Association, Flushing Workers Center, National Mobilization Against SweatShops, and the 318 Restaurant Workers Union. We invite all service workers to join us in calling on Governor Cuomo to give us a real minimum-wage increase and enforce to law so we can eliminate the sweatshop conditions in our workplaces and fight for improvements.
Our members are constantly developing new ways to talk about the work of organizing in our communities and our workplaces. Recently, with outreach for our 5 year pledge fundraising campaign in mind, Yolanda Donato, an NMASS board member, composed this poem:
Last Saturday NMASS members came together with friends, families and supporters to celebrate 18 years of organizing and kick off our 5 year pledge campaign to secure our center on Grand Street. (more…)
Last month, the Labor Coalition for Workers’ Rights and Economic Justice at theCUNY School of Law honored NMASS for its work to build a new labor movement. Coalition member Kristen Zapalac presented the award and emphasized NMASS’ unique and timely perspective that calls on all of us, as workers, across trade, ethnicity, race, and age, to come together to address our common exploitation. Several NMASS members were on hand to accept the honor and reminded the more than 100 gathered that even though workers continue to win important victories against wage theft, such gains are threatened as long as Governor Cuomo and the Department of Labor allow the epidemic to gain momentum by refusing to enforce and strengthen the labor law. The leadership of workers was credited with shaping current legislative proposals—now endorsed by more than 50 organizations statewide—that would strengthen labor law enforcement by making it easier for workers to collect stolen wages from employers. Member and former Domino’s worker Carlos Rodriguez Herrera also invited all attendees to join the national campaign to end mandatory overtime, pointing out how more and more, bosses use mandatory overtime to pay workers less money for more work at the expense of workers’ health, time, and pay. Led by women workers, the call to eliminate mandatory overtime can protect workers’ health and safety, alleviate unemployment, raise wages, create jobs, give workers more control over their time, and reduce the income inequality gap.
“I am tired of waiting,” he said.
On Wednesday, November 12, workers and advocates held a press conference outside the NYS Department of Labor to announce potential legal action if the DOL continues to allow criminal bosses to break the law. Employers are getting away with failing to pay the minimum wage and overtime; stealing tips; withholding wages from day laborers and construction workers; and misclassifying car service workers and unpaid interns so that they don’t get paid a penny. (more…)
Our monthly pickets outside the Department of Labor have brought together service workers, office workers, day laborers, and unpaid interns, and have succeeded in pressuring Cuomo to convene a wage board to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers as well as in reviving a few cases of wage theft that had languished for 6 years. (more…)
On September 23, 2014, workers and supporters will protest the Bank of Tokyo to demand it stop benefiting from the sweatshop practices at Rainbow Limo. Two groups of workers at Rainbow Limo came forward to fight back against sweatshop conditions and filed lawsuits against Rainbow Limo and owner, SeongBae Dan for failing to pay overtime, stealing a percentage of the workers’ tips and demanding $10,000 from drivers in order to work.
The Bank of Tokyo, Japan’s largest bank, is one of Rainbow Limo’s main contracts. The workers sought support from the Bank of Tokyo but the bank ignored the drivers. Workers and supporters will call for Bank of Tokyo to take responsibility and pay the workers immediately.