Restaurant workers protest tipped labor initiative with mass self-defense class

National News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Protesters will take part in a massive self-defense training class in the state capital building on Monday. The demonstration aims to protest leaving restaurant workers out of the governor’s tipped worker executive action.

The Women Workers Rising event—at 3:30 p.m. on the third-floor terrace of the Legislative Office Building on State Street—represents a show of solidarity among women in a hospitality and foodservice workforce routinely subject to a unique set of labor laws.

This comes in response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s wage board, which announced compensation changes for tipped workers on New Year’s. They said workers at car washes, nail salons, parking lots, and airports would now receive minimum wage.

The entire restaurant industry, however—comprising over 300,000 individuals, or 75% of the state’s tipped workforce—was left behind.

Activist groups behind the self-defense class hope to bring attention to the need for one fair wage for all laborers, plus safe and dignified workplaces. If restaurant workers need to rely on tips to feed their families, activists say, they will need to learn to defend themselves from sexual violence in the workplace.

The high-stress, fast-paced, all-or-nothing atmosphere of a busy restaurant leaves many employees feeling like they need self-defense classes. Servers and bartenders often work into the early hours of the morning, leaving them vulnerable to potential physical attackers in the middle of the night, when their establishments close.

Food service has some of the highest rates of mental health issues and addiction of any industry, and women restaurant workers face the highest levels of sexual harassment. In New York, 70% of restaurant workers are women.

Women service industry workers and their allies will demonstrate alongside actress and #TimesUp member Carmen LoBue, social justice artist and musician Taina Asili, chef-activist Breanne Delgado, Peabody Award-winning Filmmaker Abby Ginzberg, and Reps. Catalina Cruz, Linda Rosenthal, and Félix Ortiz.

The event is organized by One Fair Wage and One Billion Rising.

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