LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — Restaurant workers are leaving the service industry in droves. And if wages don’t improve, they warn even more will leave for higher paying jobs and better working conditions as COVID-19 cases surge in the city.
“One million workers have left the restaurant industry! One million,” One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman chanted Tuesday. “And guess which state has the highest rate of workers leaving the industry? New York!”
Angry and dissatisfied restaurant employees gathered in front of Lower East Side restaurant and called attention to what they said is a mass exodus from the industry.
“We need the governor to pass One Fair Wage to create a level playing field so we’re not alone,” Jayaraman said.
One Fair Wage — an organization dedicated to eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers — rallied outside La Palapa, a restaurant that pays a base salary of $15 an hour, plus tips. Owner Barbara Sibley said that wage helps boost morale at her business.
“You can’t put a value on morale,” she said. “Having a good morale and taking care of people is priceless.”
A report by One Fair Wage found that more than 120,000 workers left New York City because of poor pay and increased risk due to COVID. They say the only thing that will make them come back — and stay — is a full minimum wage with tips on top.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo eliminated the sub-minimum wage for all tipped workers in 2019, but restaurant workers were not included in that decision. In the city, the sub-minimum wage is $10, which advocates argue is not enough to live on.
“Either Governor Hochul raises the wage, or you’re going to see a mass exodus of the like which we have never seen and this industry will not be able to reopen,” Jayaraman said.