COVID-19 highlights the racism of the tipped minimum wage, this week in the war on workers

Black workers have been hit so hard during the coronavirus pandemic, and a full accounting of the hits is not yet complete. We know that Black people have been disproportionately likely to get sick, to be hospitalized, and to die from COVID-19. That they’ve been more likely to face job loss during the pandemic (when they aren’t being exposed to the virus at essential but underpaid jobs). That they’ve been less likely to get unemployment benefits. A recent report from One Fair Wage adds another angle to this litany of racist impacts: racist tipping practices.

Black tipped workers already earned less than white ones before the pandemic. It got worse.

“Since the pandemic, Black tipped workers were far more likely to report their tips had decreased by half or greater compared to workers overall (88% v 78%)—confirming that the racial bias that existed in tipping prior to the pandemic was exacerbated during the pandemic,” One Fair Wage reports. “Black workers were also far more likely to report their tips had decreased due to enforcing COVID-19 safety measures than workers in general—in other words, Black workers were penalized far more than other workers for trying to enforce social distancing and mask rules (73% v 62%)—making it more challenging for them to enforce these rules and thus further exposing themselves and the public to the virus.”

The answer is obvious: Tipped workers should be paid the full minimum wage (which should itself be raised) so that they’re not so dependent on individual customers.

? Union members from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will be picketing the Super Bowl to protest Frontier Communications—which has a corporate partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—proposing to cut health care and retirement benefits in ongoing contract negotiations.

Ohio auto parts workers went on strike to unionize, and when that didn’t succeed, petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for recognition.

How the PRO Act would restore workers’ freedom to join a union.

In the shadow of COVID-19, ACLU joins nonprofit unionization surge.

Former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney is dead at 86. Sweeney was a major figure in moving the labor federation to a more activist and inclusive stance.

Enormous VA union contract moves toward uncertain conclusion under Biden administration:

In early January, members voted to reject a proposed contract that they say was insufficient and one-sided. After that, a 30-day mediation period began. That mediation period expires this week. Because of some delays on the VA’s side in appointing a negotiator, the union is hoping for an extension, though it is unclear what a final timetable will be. What is certain is that after a process that has been marked by lawsuits, intransigence, political battles, and charges of bad faith, there are still significant outstanding issues to be settled.

“We’ve alleged from the beginning that the VA’s never really come to the table with a sincere desire to reach agreement. There’s been a lot of bad faith behavior,” says Thomas Dargon, AFGE’s acting supervisory attorney working on the National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC). ?“What we’ve been asking for all along is for them to come to the table seriously.”

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on February 6, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.