Black restaurant workers received less in tips than others during pandemic, report says

A waiter wears a face mask at an outdoor dining area outside a restaurant during a snow storm on December 16, 2020 in New York City.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities, the restaurant industry is no different.

During the pandemic, Black restaurant workers have received far less in tips than other racial groups, according to a report by labor advocacy group One Fair Wage. An overwhelming 90% of Black workers have reported their tips have declined by 50% or more, furthering the racial divide in the restaurant industry. By comparison, 72% of White workers said their tips had declined by that much.

About 4,100 workers in five states and Washington, D.C., participated in the survey, which was conducted over the phone and via email from October through January.

Although Black workers represent the majority of the tipped service industry, they are also the ones making the least, according the report, which examined government data and its survey’s findings, among other sources.

Even prior to Covid-19, Black food service workers have said they receive fewer tips on average than their White counterparts, with some earning as little as $10 dollars an hour.

In addition to receiving less in tips, Covid-19 has been a continuing threat to their health and well-being. According to the survey, more Black employees knew someone who had contracted or died from the disease than others, putting Black workers at risk for Covid-19 at work and home.

As a result of mandating the appropriate social distancing and mask rules, the report found Black employees have received more hostility from customers than others on average, which also resulted in fewer tips.

#MaskualHarrassment, a term that originated from the pandemic that describes the practice of male customers asking women to remove their mask and using their looks to base the amount of tips they give, have also gone up. Forty percent of restaurant workers surveyed received sexual harassment on the job during the pandemic, with Black employees having received racial hostility as well.

Eight in 10 workers have also reported hostile reactions when enforcing health protocols, which have affected the amount of tips they receive. But slightly more Black workers, about 86%, have experienced this.

“Sometimes if you ask a customer to put on a mask or step away a little, they get angry and go out their way to get closer to you or to touch you just to make you feel uncomfortable,” a respondent said in the report.

The report comes amid a growing discussion about raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. President Joe Biden’s proposal would double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which has not moved since 2009.

Correction: Eight in 10 workers have reported hostile reactions when enforcing health protocols. An earlier version of this story misstated who experienced this trend.

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