Coronavirus devastates restaurant workers who live ‘tip to mouth’

As restaurants around the country close or shift to delivery only, “millions of laid-off … workers, many who made just $2.13 an hour plus tips — the federal minimum wage for tipped workers — are scrambling to pay their bills and feed their families,” as Liza Gross reports in FERN’s latest story. 

“The Covid-19 crisis throws into stark relief the restaurant industry’s unjust labor practices, says Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. 

“Jayaraman estimates that 4 million workers have already lost their jobs and expects millions more to be laid off in the coming weeks. Her advocacy group, One Fair Wage, launched an emergency fund last month to help tipped workers survive the nationwide shutdowns. More than 50,000 people signed up in five days. ‘About three workers are signing up a minute,’ she says. ‘We’ve been overwhelmed with the desperation.’ ”