ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Essential workers are rallying at East Capitol Park on Monday. They want legislators to enact “One Fair Wage,” which would grant full minimum wage to service industry workers who rely mostly on tips to survive.

Demonstrators say what they consider to be a fair wage is even more important as they risk exposure to COVID-19 amid a statewide spike in cases. They say that legislators could guarantee fair wages to help restaurant workers survive by passing fair wage legislation.

At about 12:30 p.m., workers gathered around “Elena the Essential Worker,” a 24-foot statue reminiscent of Rosie the Riveter, and unfurled a “Captain Cuomo” poster appealing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support “One Fair Wage” legislation.

It is up to restaurant workers to enforce social distancing, occupancy limits, and wearing masks, frequently while also recording contact information for contact tracing purposes. As temperatures plummet, service is moving outdoors, and servers must rely on frustrated customers in limited numbers to try to earn a living.

Reports show that tips are already down by as much as 75% since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, reports of sexual harassment are also spiking. Organizers—One Fair Wage, #TimesUp, the Barry Commoner Center for Health & the Environment, Queens College at the City University of New York, and others—say service workers are routinely being harassed in their report, “Take Off Your Mask So I Know How Much to Tip You.”

The report says that in New York:

  • 67% of workers say bosses are inconsistently following safety protocols
  • 38% say employers did not hold mandatory training about COVID-19 protocols before reopening
  • 79% report increased hostility from customers since March
  • 42% report more harassment
  • 65% of women and 21% of men report more unwanted sexual comments

Overwhelmingly, responts said tips had declined significantly with the pandemic, and that they’re even worse when enforcing COVID-19 safety measures.

In 2019, Cuomo specifically exempted restaurants from an executive order that required paying tipped workers minimum wage.

Take a look at “Take Off Your Mask So I Know How Much to Tip You”: