Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, and a host of other progressive activists just really want to help New York City waitresses earn minimum wage, and they’re willing to stick their neck out to do it.
There’s just one prolem: the waitresses really don’t want their help.
The New York Times reports that for more than a year, Schumer, Poehler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Williams, and others have been petitioning the New York state government to end the minimum wage exceptions for food service workers, arguing that if waitresses didn’t have to rely so much on tips, they would be better able to defend themselves against sexual harassment.
A tip-less society, they reason, means women won’t have to subject themselves to harassment out of fear they won’t be paid for their work, and where merit doesn’t play into how much a woman is paid, waitresses are less likely to be exploited by their employers.
They also reason that celebrities are better placed to complain about “inequalities” in the “system” than oppressed workers.
It turns out, on both counts, they’re wrong — at least according to restaurant industry professionals.
“Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry is pushing back, saying the proposed change would spell doom for many businesses,” the NYT reports. “But it has also created an unexpected divide: Waitresses and other servers are resisting the proposal, saying they can make more money from tips and do not need celebrities to help protect them from harassment.”
“The resounding message from servers in New York to these actresses in Hollywood is to just leave us alone,” one server in New York told the Times. “These celebrities have literally no idea. I feel like they need to butt out.”
The effort is tied to the Time’s Up movement, though, which is supposed to focus on eliminating gender inequality and sexual harassment from Hollywood. Unfortunately for New York waitresses, though, the movement has just about fizzled out. Although there are some key players who’ve been pushed out of the mainstream — like Harvey Weinstein, Bryan Singer, and Kevin Spacey — efforts to eliminate inequality and harassment at the lower levels has quietly ended.
Some of the most vocal proponents of the Time’s Up movement have also met with deep criticism over their lack of standards, and, in some cases, their active participation in harassment. Elizabeth Moss, for example, tried to get out in front of the Time’s Up movement — a natural consequence of her leading role in the women’s rights drama, “The Handmaid’s Tale” — only to face questions about her ties to Scientology, a “religion” known for stories of subjugation, harassment, and even physical abuse of its female members.
Clearly, the Time’s Up movement decided to go in a new direction — but not a direction anyone really wanted.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, for his part, seems undecided on the issue. Although he supports progressive efforts to raise the minimum wage, his spokeperson has said in interviews that ultimately the decision to allow an exception to the minimum wage for food service employees who are eligible for tips lies with the New York Department of Labor, not the governor directly.
There’s a minimum wage law in play that would raise the wage to $15 across the board, but while the measure would pass one house of the New York legislature, it will die in the other.
For servers in New York City especially, $15 is actually less than what they typically make per hour. Several servers at “busy restaurants and bars” told the paper that they can make more than $20 per hour some nights. A raise in the minimum wage, for many workers, would mean a cut in pay.
Waitresses in New York said as much in a letter to celebrities lobbying the governor’s office.
“Thank you for your concern. But we don’t need your help and we’re not asking to be saved,” they said.