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For Immediate Release


Brett Abrams, 

Press Release

In New Letter To Pres. Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, & Speaker Pelosi, Massive Coalition of 100 Women Leaders—Including Celebrities & Restaurant Owners—Say Anything Less Than Giving Tipped Workers a Full Minimum Wage Would Codify Gender Pay

Groups say any negotiations to advance minimum wage legislation create pathway to permanently ending the subminimum wage.

In a new letter sent this morning to President Joseph Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi, a massive coalition of 100 women leaders, including several celebrities and restaurant owners from across the United States are urging the nation’s top Democrats to not compromise for anything less than 100% of the full minimum wage for tipped workers, arguing that anything less than a full minimum wage with tips on top results in the restaurant industry having the highest levels of sexual harassment and gender based violence of any industry. 

The letter is being delivered just days before Equal Pay Day and also explains how failing to end the subminimum wage for restaurant workers allows the restaurant industry to legally pay women one third of what they pay men - perpetuating gender pay inequities. Together with the letter, national organizations One Fair Wage will also be delivering to Senate Majority Leader and Speaker Pelosi 140,000 petitions from tipped service workers calling for the same thin—100% of the wage for tipped workers. 


The letters, which recognize that President Biden, Sen. Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi will have to negotiate with other Democrats to get the majority support needed to pass Raise the Wage Act, proposes compromises such as adding tax breaks for small businesses and expanding timelines to achieve the full minimum wage for tipped workers - but firmly asserts that anything less than a full minimum wage, even if it takes a longer timeline, is not acceptable. The letters explain:

“In negotiating over the subminimum wage for tipped workers, we could consider additional, time-limited supports for small businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry, supplementing the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund and other small business assistance, given that both workers and employers in the sector have been hard hit by the pandemic, or even a longer timeline to achieve a full minimum wage. But we cannot allow tipped workers to ultimately earn less than 100% of the wage, even if it takes several years to get there. Allowing employers to pay anything less than the full minimum wage to tipped workers exacerbates crisis-level rates of sexual harassment and gender pay inequity.” 

Specifically, the letter signers argue: 

  • The subminimum wage for tipped workers is a legacy of slavery that exacerbates gender pay inequity and devalues women’s work. Among the millions of tipped workers nationwide for whom the federal subminimum wage is still just $2.13 an hour, more than two-thirds are women, disproportionately women of color. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the leisure and hospitality industry—including job loss, reduced hours, and lower tips—the poverty rate for women working as restaurant servers, bartenders and in other tipped jobs was nearly 2.5 times the rate for workers overall.
  • The subminimum wage for tipped workers is also the key reason that the restaurant industry has the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry.Because they are dependent on customer tips as a portion of their base wage, tipped workers who earn a subminimum wage often feel forced to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to avoid jeopardizing their income. During the pandemic, as restaurants have reduced capacity and servers have faced declining tips, this power dynamic has grown even more problematic; in one survey, 41% of workers reported a noticeable change in overall levels of unwanted sexualized comments from customers during the pandemic, and hundreds of women reported that male customers asked them to take off their masks to judge their looks and their tips on that basis.

The letter was signed by 100 women’s leaders including Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Alyssa Milano, Amy Schumer, Sophia Bush, Patricia & Rosanna Arquette, Rosario Dawson, Lily Tomlin, dozens of national women’s organizations, and organizations from states in which Democratic Senators voted against the Raise the Wage Act, like Maine and Arizona. 


This Wednesday, March 24th, the United States commemorates Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. In the United States, this date symbolizes how far into the year the average woman must work in order to earn what the average man earns in the previous year regardless of experience or job type.

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