“It is a problem that affects millions of Americans,” said Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, of the crisis currently hitting sub-minimum wage workers due to COVID-19, “both those who are still working and those who have lost their jobs. It’s time for Americans to show that we hear this, we understand this, and we’re going to do something about it.”
Clinton spoke those galvanizing words at a recent online event hosted by The Riveter in partnership with the incredible organizations One Fair Wage and The United State of Women. Moderator Nikki Lewis, of One Fair Wage, set the stage by talking about her past as a long-time tip worker and sharing how meaningful it has been for her to advocate for service workers in the era of COVID-19. She then introduced speakers Secretary Clinton and Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, who described the “crisis of depression-era levels of poverty and starvation,” that has struck the 10 million-plus service workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, a huge percentage of whom are being denied unemployment benefits at the state level. Why? Because in 43 states it is still legal to pay them a sub-minimum (or “tipped”) wage, and that wage is too low for them to qualify.
Speaking to a packed (virtual) house of nearly 1,000 rapt listeners, Clinton shared impassioned views on the crisis in comments that left the audience inspired — and inspired to act. A few takeaways:
“We have to deal with the immediate emergency. But that’s not enough: We also need to take advantage of this terrible crisis to educate people so that when we do come back from what is a joint economic and health crisis, we can do better than we were before.”
“I think that probably many millions of American don’t understand that oftentimes the people who are taking care of them at restaurants and other businesses are literally surviving on tips, because it is legal for their employers to pay them as little as $2.13 an hour. As difficult as things were before the pandemic, they are at crisis levels now.”
“There are seven states that have recognized that this is so fundamentally unfair. This vestige of slavery needs to be eliminated once and for all. A lot of the states, based on all the evidence…have shown that moving away from a tip wage and toward a fairer minimum wage not only helps workers, but also doesn’t hurt the businesses that employ those workers. They actually continue to do well, sometimes even better than before.”
“Let’s seize this moment as a moment of solidarity – a lot of us are at home, but those who are going out to work deserve even more of our support. “
“I am hopeful — I try to be optimistic even in the worst of times — that with the leadership of groups like One Fair Wage and those who are supporting them from all walks of life, that more and more people will say, We don’t want to go back to where we were. We want to come back better and stronger and make this an economy that works better for everybody. There’s no better place to start than eliminating tip wages.”
Watch the video:
As a reminder, you can donate, volunteer and find more information about the One Fair Wage Emergency Fund here. Please spread the word!